CHICAGO (jGLi) – A Filipino-American owner of a home healthcare business residing in suburban Elmhurst, Illinois was sentenced Thursday (Aug. 30) by United States District Court Judge Frederick J. Kapala in Rockford, Illinois to 20 months in federal prison after she was convicted for health care fraud and a kickback scheme, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott A. Verseman.
Merigrace Orillo, 45, co-owned and operated Chalice Home Healthcare Service, Inc. with her late husband, Virgilio Orillo. Chalice had offices in Chicago, Freeport and Morris, Illinois.
Ms. Orillo was sentenced after she pleaded guilty last April to healthcare fraud and kickback violations.
Along with her husband, Ms. Orillo admitted defrauding the Medicare program of more than $700,000. She pleaded guilty to Count One, which charges defendant with health care fraud, and Count Two, which charges her with aiding and abetting another in paying kickbacks for patient referrals under the federal health care program.
According to a written plea agreement, Chalice’s nurses, nurse aides, physical therapists and occupational therapists provided services to patients in their homes. Chalice was usually paid for these services through the Medicare program.
Ms. Orillo admitted that from January 2007 thru April 2010, she and her late husband, Virgilio Orillo, falsified documents in order to pad the payments Chalice received from Medicare.
The falsifications made Chalice’s patients appear to be sicker than they actually were and in need of greater care than they actually required.
Orillo also admitted that she knowingly assisted her husband in paying cash kickbacks to a Chicago doctor. The kickbacks were paid in return for the doctor referring patients to Chalice for home healthcare services.
Orillo admitted that she withdrew cash from Chalice’s bank account and provided that cash to her husband to be used to pay these kickbacks. At the sentencing hearing, the court found that Orillo’s scheme caused a loss of more than $700,000 to the Medicare program.
CHARGES AGAINST HUSBAND DROPPED
The indictment, which was filed on February 15, 2011, charged both Orillo and her husband Virgilio with healthcare fraud. The charges against Virgilio Orillo were dropped after he died on August 30, 2011.
Judge Kapala also ordered Orillo to pay $744,481 in restitution to the Medicare Trust Fund. Orillo will not be eligible for parole on her prison sentence.
The investigation was conducted by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which expanded to the Northern District of Illinois in 2011, and is part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative between the Justice Department and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce anti-fraud laws around the country.
The sentencing was announced by Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; William C. Monroe, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Lamont Pugh, III, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General in Chicago.
The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott A. Verseman.
INDICTEES PLEAD NOT GUILTY, ISSUE STATEMENT
Meanwhile, three Filipino American nurses indicted last Aug. 9 had pleaded not guilty during their separate arraignments last week and this week for taking part in a conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks in exchange for the referral of Medicare patients for home health care services that cost the Medicare $5-Million in losses.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Samborn, public information officer of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern Illinois District, said those who pleaded not guilty to the fraud charges were Marilyn Maravilla, Junjee L. Arroyo, both part owners of Goodwill Home Healthcare, Inc., Ferdinand Echavia, a licensed nurse, who referred patients to Goodwill, and Jean Holloway and Rakeshkumar Shah, who both marketed Goodwill’s services to Medicare patients.
The six defendants were alleged to have conspired in paying and receiving approximately $400,000 in kickbacks to themselves, nurses, marketers and others for referral and retention of Medicare patients that enabled Goodwill to bill Medicare approximately $5-million.
Maravilla, 55, of Chicago; Arroyo, 44, of Elmhurst; and Echavia, 39, also of Chicago, are all licensed nurses. Together with Goodwill as a corporate defendant, Maravilla and Arroyo were arraigned last Aug. 22 while Echavia was arraigned last Aug. 29.
All the defendants were released on their own recognizance.
An email from Goodwill Home Healthcare received by this reporter said, “Dear Mr. Lariosa, Thank you for writing Filipino nurses . This is still in court hope we learn as Filipinos to care for each other as other ethnic groups do. God bless and please we are people too with heart and soul. There is always a life after this earthly sojourn of ours.” (firstname.lastname@example.org)