MIAMI — A federal judge on Friday sentenced a Miami man who owned the nation's largest community mental health center chain to 50 years in prison for his role in a $205 million Medicare scam.
The sentence is the longest to be imposed for a case brought through a Medicare fraud strike force.
For years, federal authorities said, Lawrence Duran, 49, preyed on patients with Alzheimer's disease and severe dementia, orchestrating an elaborate scam in which his staff forged patient charts to bill Medicare for therapy session and other services it never delivered.
Prosecutors said doctors and other employees at American Therapeutic Corp. and its sister companies were instructed to alter diagnoses and medications to make it seem that patients qualified for expensive sleep studies and mental health treatments.
Duran and co-owner Marianella Valera were arrested in a massive bust last year. Authorities started investigating the company after an employee contacted them. Company offices closed earlier this year.
The two pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including health care fraud and money laundering. Valera is scheduled to be sentenced next week.