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Couple accused of home health fraud

State fraud investigators arrested seven people Wednesday, including a husband and wife from Clearwater who are accused of billing Medicaid for home health visits that never took place.

Gilbert DeHamer, 65, and Pauline DeHamer, 63, were charged with organized fraud in operating Firstat Nursing Services, a Tampa home health care agency at 5100 W Kennedy Blvd., according to officials with the statewide prosecutors office.

The pair submitted more than $9,000 in false claims for home health care visits between January 1994 and February 1995, said Gina Smith, assistant statewide prosecutor. The DeHamers sold the business in December.

Sometimes, the pair billed for two visits when only one was made. At other times, the pair billed for visits that never took place, Smith said. She emphasized that Firstat corporate officials have not been accused of wrongdoing.

"They have cooperated fully in the investigation," Smith said.

Reached at home, DeHamer referred questions to his attorney, but said he was innocent of the charges. "We are not guilty of that," DeHamer said. DeHamer's Clearwater lawyer, Andra Dreyfus, declined to comment.

Also arrested were Sandra Guerra, 35; Faye I. Burns, 51; Migdalia Hernandez, 41; Ihab Sulaiman, 24; and Gerardo Gomez, 24, all of Miami.

State officials began targeting home health care fraud last year, arresting about 84 people in 1996. Including the seven arrested Wednesday, law enforcement authorities have arrested 23 people on home health care fraud charges this year.