On Tuesday, Roberto Fernandez Gonzalez, 63, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for of his role in a $28.3 million Medicare fraud scheme. Fernandez pleaded guilty on June 24, 2013 to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud.

“Submitting false claims for payment to the government is an issue of growing concern for everyone because, ultimately, the businesses and people defrauding the government are stealing from taxpayers,” commented Christopher Paulos, attorney with the Levin, Papantonio law firm who practices in the areas of qui tam or whistleblower and false claims act litigation.

Fernandez and co-conspirators bought and operated many different physical therapy clinics throughout the state of Florida, one being Rehab Dynamics Inc., based in Venice, FL. Using the clinics, the fraudsters submitted about $28.3 million in fraudulent reimbursement claims to Medicare from 2005 to 2009. Medicare paid about half of those fraudulent claims.

Sentencing was carried out by Judge Susan C. Bucklew of the Middle District of Florida who also ordered Fernandez to forfeit $446,738 and pay the same amount in restitution.

After obtaining Rehab Dynamics, the co-conspirators made a sham sale of the company to Fernandez. Fernandez, a Cuban immigrant with no background in the healthcare industry, had no money to purchase Rehab Dynamics. The co-conspirators paid Fernandez approximately $20,000 to act a straw owner of Rehab Dynamics from January 2008 to March 2008. In that time, the company submitted about $1.6 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare to earn reimbursement for physical therapy sessions that didn’t exist.

The crimes were investigated by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which was formed in March 2007. The force now operates in nine states and has charged over 1,700 defendants with Medicare fraud who have billed the program over $5.5 billion.

Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.