By Jim Kouri
A Cuban man living in Miami, FL, was charged Tuesday for his part in a money-laundering conspiracy that deposited millions of U.S. dollars, obtained in a health care scam, into banks located in Cuba, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Oscar Sanchez had been arrested by FBI agents last week and appeared in federal court in Miami yesterday morning. He is accused of being the leader of a criminal enterprise that illegally obtained more than $30 million from Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly.
The stolen funds were then transferred into several Havana banking institutions in the communist country, according to Justice Department officials.
According to the grand jury indictment, the 46-year-old Sanchez is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering through a syndicate with links from Montreal and Trinidad to Cuba from sometime in April 2005 through October 2009.
Sanchez is facing upwards of 20-years in federal prison on the conspiracy charge alone. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami also seeks more than $20 million in Florida real estate and other property purchased using the accused’s name, according to court documents.
According to a law enforcement source in Miami, the Sanchez-Medicare case is the first time U.S. law enforcement officials traced money stolen from a U.S. government health care program into the Cuban financial system.
Miami has long been described by law enforcement officials as primary location for Medicare and Medicaid fraud in the U.S., and many of the suspects in health care fraud cases have been Cuban Americans.
Along with the laundering of millions of dollars in government reimbursements to crooked health care providers — who offered bogus HIV and medical equipment services — Sanchez is alleged to have provided cash to cover expenses of the fraud suspects, according to the indictment.
While government estimates of yearly Medicaid-Medicare losses due to fraud are between $30 billion and $60 billion, some law enforcement officials believe that once so-called Obamacare becomes fully implemented, fraud figures may double each year.