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Federal health care fraud crackdown snags several Florida defendants

Ljupco Smokovski

The Department of Justice charged 193, including 76 licensed medical professionals, throughout the country as part of the action. Many of those indicted are from Florida.

Several Florida residents are among 193 people charged by the U.S. Department of Justice recently in a nationwide fraud crackdown focused on health care for the elderly and disabled.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the charges Thursday against doctors, nurse practitioners and others across the U.S. accused of a variety of scams, including a $900 million scheme in Arizona targeting dying patients.

The Florida defendants include Eva LeBeau, 65, of Clearwater, and Lori Lebrecht, 60, of Largo. They are accused of conspiracy to defraud through an illegal kickback scheme involving Prestigious Senior Home Health Care of Pinellas County. LeBeau owned the company and Lebrecht was director of nursing.

Prosecutors said they submitted false and fraudulent claims totaling over $2 million for home health services.

Prosecutors also indicted 28-year-old Eric Brewer, an intensive care nurse from Lakeland. Brewer is accused of stealing fentanyl infusion bags and in some cases actually siphoning the fentanyl out of patient IV bags at hospitals in Tampa.

In another case, Lisa Williams, 56, of Lithia, was charged with six counts of tampering with a consumer product and six counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud in connection with her unlawfully acquiring and tampering with fentanyl infusion bags at a hospital.

Ma Gracia Cadet, 53, of Kissimmee, and Marques Elijah Green, 29, of Windermere. They were charged and signed plea agreements last week in separate cases of conspiracy to commit health care fraud worth millions of dollars.

Prosecutors claim they filed bogus claims for medical equipment and that Cadet's conspiracy involved at least $9.3 million in Medicare funds and Green's more than $3.4 million.

Erin Kim, of Orlando, a 54-year-old nurse practitioner, is accused of conspiring with others at Done, a California-based digital health care company, to illegally supply Adderall to patients without a medical need for it. Prosecutors said Kim prescribed 1.5 million pills and was paid $800,000.

Robert Desselle, 46, of Sarasota, was charged with conspiracy to defraud in connection with an alleged scheme to pay illegal kickbacks to patient recruiters in exchange for referring Medicare beneficiaries for cancer genetic testing that was not medically necessary.

Lawrence Waldman, 57, of Miami, who worked for ASAP Labs as a sales representative, is accused of conspiracy to defraud in connection with a scheme to submit false claims to Medicare. Prosecutors allege Waldman used his position to obtain genetic tests and respiratory viral panel test swabs from Medicare beneficiaries.

Waldman and co-conspirators used the test swabs, along with requisition forms containing forged and unauthorized signatures of medical practitioners, to obtain approximately $380,000 in illegal kickbacks, authorities allege.

In total, 193 people were charged in a series of separate cases brought over about two weeks in the nationwide health care fraud sweep.

Authorities seized more than $230 million in cash, luxury cars and other assets.

The Justice Department carries out these sweeping health care fraud efforts periodically with the goal of helping to deter other potential wrongdoers.

Information from WGCU in Fort Myers and the Associated Press was used in this report.

Joe Byrnes