Crimes investigated by the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office rose overall in 2016 compared to the year before.
FORT PIERCE — A Fort Pierce man who collected more than $1.6 million from Medicare from fraudulent claims under stolen identities was sentenced in federal court to more than 13 years in prison.
Miguel De Paula Arias, 53, had pleaded guilty in July to three of the 40 counts with which he was charged in an amended indictment handed up in June.
The 28-count indictment charged Arias with 11 counts of health care fraud, three counts each of mail fraud and wire fraud, three counts of making false statements related to health care, one count of possession of 15 or more unauthorized access devices and seven counts of aggravated identity theft.
Court records show that Arias stole the identities of six retired and semi-retired senior citizen physicians and their Medicare accounts used to submit claims for services provided to patients.
He used fake passports, driver’s licenses and other identity documents to establish bank accounts, mailing addresses and phone-answering services in the names of the victim physicians to give the appearance that the physicians were in practice and providing medical care to senior citizens in different locations around the country.
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Between June 2011 and December 2016, using stolen personal identification information of real senior citizens from around the county, Arias submitted fraudulent and fictitious claims for purportedly providing medical services to Medicare using the victim doctors’ identities.
Arias directed more than $1.6 million paid by Medicare, resulting from this scheme, to be deposited into bank accounts he controlled in the victim doctors’ names.
The doctors, as a result of Arias’ crimes, received bills from the Internal Revenue Service for unpaid taxes and from Medicare for repayment of the apparently fraudulent claims.
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The maximum penalties for all 28 counts Arias faced totaled 269 years in prison and $7 million in fines.
In a negotiated agreement, Arias pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud, one count of making false statements and one count of aggravated identity theft. He agreed to accept a sentence based on federal guidelines.
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U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas sentenced Arias on Monday to 13 years and four months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
Arias also must pay $1,665,348 to Medicare in restitution.
Arias had been in custody since he was arrested in Broward County on Dec. 21. After sentencing, he was remanded to the Bureau of Prisons.
There’s a reason why Fort Pierce experienced such a drastic drop in crime from 2015 to 2016. LAURIE K. BLANDFORD/TCPALM