A Texas man helped convince thousands of terminally ill patients they had less than six months to live as part of a scheme to milk $150 million in a health care fraud scheme.
His punishment includes serving less than three years behind bars.
Jose Garza, 44, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud in Sept. 2019. A jury convicted three other co-defendants. The other defendants, including the company’s owner and CEO, were each sentenced to more than a decade in prison.
This week, Garza, who served as the operations manager for the Merida Group, was sentenced to 27 months in prison. As operation manager, Garza was responsible for the day-to-day operations, including patient recruitment for hospice care.
The company recruited patients at hospitals and medical facilities by saying that Merida Group offered “hospice that you don’t have to die to use.”
Two co-defendants testified that between 2009 and 2018, many patients did not qualify for services. The scheme included falsifying documents to convince patients with long-term, incurable diseases that they had less than six months to live so the company could enroll them in hospice care.
Physicians were bribed with kickbacks to falsify documents for services. Merida employees also faked medical records making non-terminal patients appear to be terminally ill and declining.
Garza admitted to participating in the scheme and facilitating kickback patients to physicians and getting employees to falsify documents.
In addition to the prison sentence, Garza was also ordered to pay $4.7 million in restitution.