Wednesday, October 19, 2005

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Attorney General Abbott's Medicaid Fraud Officers Arrest Three In Fraudulent Prescription Sting

BROWNSVILLE - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today announced the arrests of three Brownsville residents for their involvement in an alleged scheme with a pharmacist to defraud the Medicaid program.

Juana (Janie) Garcia, 43, and Hermelinda Altamirano, 35, were arrested Oct 18 with the assistance of the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office, and Eduardo Solis, 42, was arrested Oct. 21 with the help of Brownsville police. Their crime ring allegedly billed Medicaid approximately $536,000 from 1998-2005 after obtaining fraudulent prescriptions linked to actual patients without the knowledge of a physician.

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Juana Garcia
Video of Arrest
Video of Arrest

Hermelinda Altamirano
Video of Arrest
Video of Arrest

Eduardo Solis

“My officers are aggressively pursuing Medicaid fraud perpetrators like this crime ring in the Valley,” said Attorney General Abbott. “Those who steal from the state’s health care program for the needy will face serious penalties, and we are committed to getting back the money they took.”

Pharmacy owner Felix G. Maldonado, 80, of Brownsville, who conspired in the scheme, was not indicted and has been cooperating with the Attorney General and the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office. He has repaid the Medicaid program more than $465,000 of ill-gotten proceeds as part of an agreement with the district attorney in lieu of a trial. The Maldonado Pharmacy is located at 1200 E. Adams St.

The arrests are the result of an indictment returned by the Cameron County grand jury on Oct. 12. The indictment charges that Altamirano, Garcia and Solis, an x-ray technician, conspired with Maldonado to defraud Medicaid using forged and phone-in prescriptions using stolen Medicaid recipient numbers.

Garcia, who also was indicted on a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity, allegedly provided the at-large suspect with stolen Medicaid numbers for bogus phone prescriptions from which Medicaid would be billed for reimbursement by Maldonado. Altamirano, a nurse, wrote prescriptions and got the unwitting physician for whom she worked to sign them, then sold these to the third suspect. Altamirano was indicted on charges of third-degree insurance fraud.

Solis allegedly collected the fraudulent prescriptions for various Medicaid-covered drugs, then turned them over to the pharmacist Maldonado. The pharmacist in turn billed Medicaid for these prescriptions, which were never filled, and shared the Medicaid reimbursement with Solis, who has been indicted on charges of first-degree insurance fraud, felony theft and engaging in organized criminal activity.

Garcia and the at-large suspect are subject to up to 99 years or life in prison if convicted of the charges, as well as a maximum $10,000 fine. Altamirano faces a punishment of two to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

For more information about the Attorney General’s efforts to fight Medicaid fraud, access the agency’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.