An elaborate scheme that involved posing as a medical doctor is netting one Florida woman a nearly $8.5 million fine and 17-year jail sentence, federal officials recently announced.
Alejandra Collazo, 43, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., defrauded the Medicare program while owning and operating Miami-based Vortex Medical Center & Management Services, Inc. Collazo was sentenced Feb. 5, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
“She lived a life of lying, stealing and cheating,” prosecuting U.S. Attorney Kevin Larsen told U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno in court Feb. 5, according to local media coverage. “She is like a catch-me-if-you-can character. She was holding herself out as a doctor, a nurse and a nurse practitioner.”
During the course of the scheme Collazo represented that she was a licensed nurse practitioner in Florida, and in previous corporate filings she represented that she was a medical doctor, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Collazo has never been a licensed medical professional in the State of Florida or any other jurisdiction.
Her co-defendant, Ricardo Corria, 49, of Miami, was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for his alleged role in the scheme.
“At Vortex, Collazo used the stolen identities of physicians to forge prescriptions that prescribed home health services,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement. “Collazo and Corria later sold these forged prescriptions to patient recruiters for $100 each. Home health agencies located in Miami-Dade County then submitted these forged prescriptions to Medicare, which represented millions of dollars in false and fraudulent claims.”
Collazo pleaded guilty Dec. 5, 2014 to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, as well as one count of aggravated identity theft. On the same date, Corria pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and receive health care kickbacks, and one substantive count of receipt of health care kickbacks.
Collazo has a record of criminal convictions and has been sentenced to state prison on multiple occasions, the federal authorities said, adding that Corria was previously convicted of cocaine trafficking and served time in federal prison.
“I’m very sorry for what I’ve done,” said Collazo, according to local media reports. “I realize that what I’ve done is wrong.”
Written by Cassandra Dowell