Texas Mayor Charged in $150 Million Medicare Fraud

LAREDO, Texas (CN) — Federal prosecutors indicted a Texas mayor who’s also a doctor of money laundering and conspiring with three others to defraud Medicare of $150 million in phony hospice and home health care services.

The 11-count indictment unsealed Wednesday charges Rio Bravo Mayor Francisco Pena, a licensed physician, with taking kickbacks to refer patients for services for which they did not qualify.

Charged with bribing Pena and other medical directors in the conspiracy are Merida Health Care Group owners Rodney Mesquias, 47, of San Antonio; Henry McInnis, 47; and Jose Garza, 40, both of Harlingen.  All four men are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Mesquias and McInnis also are charged with obstructing justice by producing false and fictitious records to a federal grand jury, and instructing the others to do so.

Prosecutors say the men fraudulently kept patients on hospice services for years to bilk Medicare. They used their ill-gotten gains to buy exotic cars, including a Porsche, expensive jewelry, luxury clothing from high-end retailers such as Louis Vuitton, real estate and season tickets for premium seating to watch the San Antonio Spurs.

Pena, 82, of Laredo, could not be reached for comment after hours Wednesday. He was elected to a four-year term as mayor of Rio Bravo, pop. 4,794, in November 2014. Rio Bravo is on the Rio Grande, 14 miles south of Laredo.

Pena faced an unsuccessful recall effort in 2016 on claims that he did not meet the city’s residency requirements.

Prosecutors also charged Pena with lying to FBI agents in an interview where he denied taking kickbacks from a confidential source in exchange for patient referrals.

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