A Florida psychiatrist and medical director of two South Florida addiction treatment facilities was recently sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for his role in a fraud scheme in which he billed $112 million for services that were never provided or were medically unnecessary.
After a 15-day trial in March, Jose Santiero of Miami Lakes was found guilty of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and wire fraud and eight counts of healthcare fraud. The facilities were Second Chance Detox LLC, dba Compass Detox, an inpatient facility in Pembroke Pines, and WAR Network LLC, a related outpatient treatment program in Hallandale.
Evidence presented at trial showed that Santiero and others admitted patients for the most expensive types of treatment offered. Patient recruiters offered kickbacks to patients to get them to attend the programs and gave them illegal drugs to ensure they were admitted at Compass. The kickbacks, according to the indictment, consisted of money, gift cards, controlled substances (including illegal drugs), other prescription medications, compound medications, free interstate flights, bus and train tickets, allowing one patient to “piggyback’” on another patient’s insurance, and offering other “scholarships” in exchange for a patient referring other individuals with insurance (including beneficiaries of the insurance plans) for treatment.
The prosecution provided evidence that Santiero submitted false and fraudulent claims for excessive, medically unnecessary urinalysis drug tests that were never used in treatment. Santeiro and others then authorized the re-admission of a core group of patients who were shuffled between Compass Detox and WAR to fraudulently bill for as much as possible, even though the patients did not need the expensive treatment for which they were repeatedly admitted.
Santeiro also prescribed Compass Detox patients a so-called “Comfort Drink” to sedate them, ensure they stayed at the facility, and keep them coming back. The evidence further showed that Santeiro’s log-in was used, with his knowledge, by others to sign electronic medical files to make it appear as if Santeiro had provided treatment when he did not.
After a seven-week trial in November 2021, two other co-defendants and brothers Jonathan and Daniel Markovich of Bal Harbour, were convicted in an earlier trial in November 2021 and sentenced to 188 months and 97 months in prison respectively. Jonathan Markovich was convicted of eight counts of healthcare fraud and Daniel Markovich was convicted of two counts of healthcare fraud. They also were both convicted of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks and two counts of paying and receiving kickbacks. Jonathan Markovich was separately convicted of conspiring to commit money laundering, two counts of concealment money laundering, and six counts of laundering at least $10,000 in proceeds of unlawful activities. He was also convicted of two counts of bank fraud related to fraudulently obtaining PPP loans for both Compass Detox and WAR during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Richard Waserstein, a Bay Harbor attorney, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and was sentenced to 13 months in prison.
Drew Lieberman, chief medical officer at Compass Detox, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and was sentenced to 13 months in prison.
Christopher Garnto, director of operations of Compass Detox, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and wire fraud and was sentenced to 24 months in prison.
In addition to providing many other healthcare law defense and compliance services, The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale represents individuals and entities such as drug treatment facilities and laboratories under investigation or accused of fraud by federal and/or state authorities.
For more information, contact the firm at 305-358-4500 or email [email protected].