Courts & Crime

Suspect in Medicare fraud nabbed in Mexico, back in U.S.

MIAMI — Federal agents caught up with suspected Medicare scammer Jose Luis Perez in the resort town of Cancun and flew him back to Miami over the weekend to face a $179 million healthcare fraud indictment.

Agents received a tip that Perez had traveled to Cancun last summer after he found out he was facing arrest on Medicare fraud charges. They passed it on to the FBI's legal attaché office in Mexico City, which confirmed Perez' identity and location.

Mexico's Immigration Service then arrested the fugitive without incident, according to U.S. authorities. They said Perez, 34, was brought to Miami late Friday. He is scheduled to have a federal court hearing Tuesday.

Over the past five years, about 60 people charged with Medicare fraud have fled the United States, mostly to Cuba and other Latin American countries, after bilking the taxpayer-funded program out of hundreds of millions of dollars, according to FBI and Health and Human Services records.

Of those, authorities have arrested eight fugitives abroad or as they've attempted to return through Miami International Airport during the past two years.

Perez is charged with operating 21 Miami-Dade medical equipment companies with partner Reinaldo Guerra, using ``straw owners'' to disguise their ownership, and stealing physicians' ID numbers to submit phony bills to Medicare for healthcare equipment.

Perez and Guerra pocketed $56 million from Medicare for durable medical equipment such as artificial limbs that no one needed or received between 2002 and 2004, authorities say.

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