A Hialeah woman who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her role in a multimillion-dollar healthcare fraud case was among a group of people to have their sentences commuted by President Donald Trump last week.
Judith Negron, the owner of American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC), a fraudulent Miami-area mental healthcare company, served ten years of her sentence for orchestrating a $205 million Medicare fraud scheme. She was found guilty and sentenced in 2011 and ordered to pay more than $87 million in restitution.
Two other owners, Lawrence Duran and Marianella Valera, were sentenced in September 2011 to 50 and 35 years in prison, respectively, for their roles in the scheme. These sentences were the three longest prison sentences ever imposed in a Medicare Fraud Strike Force case, according to a news release put out by the U.S. Department of Justice at the time of the sentencing.
Negron was found guilty by a federal jury of 24 felony counts including conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, healthcare fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive illegal healthcare kickbacks, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and structuring to avoid reporting requirements. The fraud took place over an eight-year period between 2002 and 2010.
The kickbacks and bribes were paid to owners and operators of assisted living facilities and halfway houses, as well as patient brokers, in exchange for providing patients to ATC, which purportedly provided partial hospitalization programs throughout South Florida and Orlando. Negron and her co-conspirators used a related company, American Sleep Institute (ASI), to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare. She and her co-conspirators also used another company they owned and operated, Medlink Professional Management Group, to conceal the fraud.
Negron’s sister started a petition on change.org on behalf of Judith Negron asking people to sign a petition in favor of clemency. She received more than 2,600 signatures. In the petition Negron said she took full responsibility and that while she could not take back mistakes and decisions, she was doing everything in her power to make amends.
In addition, her prison warden and counselor wrote letters of support, according to a White House press statement.
Numerous others involved in the scheme including patient recruiters, marketers and money launderers pleaded guilty to their various roles and were sentenced. Among them were Dr. Mark Willner and Dr. Alberto Ayala, former medical directors at ATC. Both were sentenced to ten years in prison for their part in the scheme and ordered to pay more than $57 million in restitution. According to evidence presented at the trial they signed patient files without reading them or seeing patients, resulting in fraudulent claim submissions to Medicare.
Vanja Abreu, the former program director at ATC was sentenced to 108 months in prison for her role and ordered to pay more than $72,000 in restitution. It was alleged that she helped doctors sign patient files without reading them or seeing patients, and that she assisted in the fabrication of doctor and therapist notes.
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