Clinic operator who fled to Cuba returns to face $130M healthcare fraud case
BY JAY WEAVER
Soon after the feds broke up a family-run chain of clinics that tried to
steal $130 million from Miami-Dade Public Schools and a string of major
U.S. companies, a trio of Cuban immigrants fled to Mexico and eventually
back home to the island.
For almost two years, the chain’s boss, Reynaldo Castillo, and his
right-hand man, Jose Gerardo Gonzalez, hid in Cuba. Castillo and
Gonzalez were wanted for their leading roles in an indictment charging a
total 16 defendants with healthcare fraud in March of 2015.
Gonzalez, 26, returned to Miami last week after a fellow Cuban convicted
in another healthcare fraud case helped arrange for his surrender to FBI
agents at Miami International Airport. Now being held at the Federal
Detention Center in downtown Miami, Gonzalez is awaiting trial in March.
His defense attorney, William Barzee, declined to comment Tuesday.
Castillo, 48, still wanted in Miami, is believed to be in jail in Cuba,
according to federal authorities.
A third defendant, Ezequiel Severo Casas, 30, is also suspected of
having fled to Cuba almost two years ago.
Their escape to the island has become commonplace among dozens of Cuban
immigrants who have joined South Florida’s healthcare rackets over the
past decade. They’ve stolen hundreds of millions from the federal
Medicare program, and in some cases from private insurers, then fled to
the island or other Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico. The
fugitives usually get caught when they travel to a third country or
return to Miami.
Almost all members of the Castillo family’s racket have struck plea
deals, starting with Reynaldo’s brother, Hendris Castillo Morales, who
was sentenced to 10 years in prison in October 2015.
At the time, he sought a more lenient sentence from U.S. District Judge
Robert Scola. But the judge pointed out that Hendris Castillo showed no
remorse, repaid nothing to the victims and his brother fled to Cuba with
potentially millions to avoid facing fraud charges.
FBI agents tried to contact Reynaldo Castillo by telephone after
apprehending other defendants in the family’s organization.
“When informed there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest, Reynaldo
Castillo hung up the telephone,” according to court documents. He
traveled from Miami to Mexico and then Cuba to evade justice, according
to prosecutors. Castillo has a mother and other family who live in Cuba.
Prosecutors Christopher Clark and Michelle Alvarez have sought to
recover millions of dollars paid out to the defendants and to seize at
least five buildings that some purchased to house their clinics.
The Castillo case is unusual because the family’s network of clinics
targeted major private insurance companies that managed healthcare plans
for self-insured public and private entities.
The city of Miami, Miami-Dade County Public Schools and several
companies lost millions of dollars in health insurance payments as a
result of being scammed by the Castillo-run clinics that submitted bogus
claims for pain injections, physical therapy and other purported
services, according to two indictments.
Prosecutors charged the defendants with trying to steal $130 million
from the public entities, private companies and major insurers, namely
Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare and Cigna.
All together, the various entities and their insurers paid out $15
million to the Castillo’s family’s healthcare network, which operated
about 35 clinics in Hialeah, Doral and Miami between 2012 and 2015,
according to the indictments.
Among the bilked entities: Pepsi Co., Macy’s, RadioShack, BJ’s Wholesale
Club, Lincoln Property Company, Nextera Energy and Southeast Frozen
Most of those, as well as the city of Miami and Miami-Dade school
system, are self-insured with healthcare plans managed by the big
insurers — so the fraudulent healthcare payments came directly out of
their bottom line.
Jay Weaver: 305-376-3446, @jayhweaver
Source: Fugitive who fled to Cuba to evade $130 million healthcare fraud
case arrested at MIA | Miami Herald –