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20 arrested in Medi-Cal fraud targeting disabled patients

July 9, 2009 | 11:57 am

Twenty people were arrested this morning in a $4.6-million Medi-Cal fraud scheme that law enforcement officials allege used unlicensed individuals to provide in-home nursing care for disabled patients.

About 75 patients, many of them children with cerebral palsy or developmental disabilities, were treated at home or at school by the unlicensed individuals who stole identities to pose as licensed nurses, according to the United States Attorney’s office.

"We believe that this is the largest single case alleging Medi-Cal fraud ever filed in the state of California," said United States Atty. Thomas O’Brien.

Those arrested this morning are among 42 defendants named in a 41-count indictment unsealed this morning. The remaining defendants are expected to turn themselves in at a later time.

From 2004 to 2007, Medicare Plus Home Health Providers, a Santa Fe Springs-based company run by Priscilla Villabroza, hired the unlicensed individuals, paying them between $8 to $12 an hour, and was reimbursed by Medi-Cal at a rate of between $20 to $35 an hour, O’Brien said. Villabroza, a registered nurse, pocketed the difference amounting to about $4.6 million, he said.

Villabroza pleaded guilty to five counts of healthcare fraud last year. She is awaiting sentencing and faces up to 50 years in prison, O’Brien said. None of the patients suffered life-threatening injuries due to the inadequate care, said Special Assistant United States Atty. Anthony Montero.

-- Raja Abdulrahim

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