Shimon Richmond, OIG's Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Regional Office, is interviewed by Tyler Daniels, a public affairs specialist in Washington DC.
[Tyler Daniels] After 20 years on the run, OIG fugitive, Robert Allen Lopez, was recently apprehended by law enforcement. I'm Tyler Daniels and welcome to the HHS IG's podcast.
After Lopez pleaded guilty to Medicare fraud in December 1995, he violated his bail agreement and left the country, he fled with his two children without his wife's consent. His 10-year-old son was found four years later wandering the streets of Cancun, Mexico. The child was taken into protective custody and reunited with his mother in the United States.
[Shimon Richmond] Lopez was captured after OIG agents, together with the State Department Diplomatic Security Service, got a tip that he was living under a false name in Nicaragua.
[Tyler Daniels] That's Special Agent in Charge, Shimon Richmond, of the OIG Miami Regional Office.
[Shimon Richmond] Lopez, was arrested this past April, at Miami International Airport. He is currently in custody and will face additional federal charges.
[Tyler Daniels] In all, Lopez is one of the 170 fugitives OIG is seeking on charges related to health care fraud and abuse. These fugitives are charged with defrauding Medicare and Medicaid out of more than $400 million dollars.
OIG has a most wanted site, so that members of the public can help OIG apprehend criminals through tips. Our website includes photos, statistics and descriptions of each fugitive's charges.
[Tyler Daniels] Special Agent in Charge Shimon Richmond, what happened with Robert Allen Lopez?
[Shimon Richmond] Well according to the indictment, from July 1991 until June 1994, Lopez and others conspired to defraud Medicare by filing false claims and structuring cash transactions in order to evade federal currency-reporting requirements. The fake claims totaled more than $4 million.
[Tyler Daniels] OIG investigators found that Lopez established numerous companies in Miami, using sham owners to conceal that he was the true owner. These companies filed false Medicare claims on behalf of beneficiaries for services that were either medically unnecessary or were not provided.
[Shimon Richmond] According to the indictment, Lopez also recruited friends and relatives to assist him as sham owners. He directed them to open bank accounts where the fraudulently obtained Medicare reimbursements were deposited. To avoid reporting requirements for cash transactions exceeding $10,000, it is believed that Lopez directed the sham owners to make structured cash withdrawals from the accounts.
[Tyler Daniels] How was he captured?
[Shimon Richmond] At OIG's request, agents from the Diplomatic Security Service and the U.S. Marshals Service worked with the Nicaraguan government to apprehend Lopez and arrange his return to the United States.
[Tyler Daniels] What are some examples of the crimes of other fugitives who remain at large?
[Shimon Richmond] Well one individual was an orthopedic spine surgeon, who billed Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies millions of dollars for spinal surgeries and related services that were not medically necessary and were potentially harmful to patients.
Another group of individuals allegedly billed Medicare, using stolen provider identities, for more than $40 million in false claims for services that were never rendered.
[Tyler Daniels] What should a citizen do if they come into contact with a person on OIG's most wanted list?
[Shimon Richmond] First, do not confront them. Instead contact the OIG so that we can safely apprehend these criminals.
[Tyler Daniels] Is there anything else the public should know about OIG's most wanted list?
[Shimon Richmond] Just that we will take whatever measures necessary to track down and apprehend these criminals who steal American tax dollars and negatively impact our healthcare programs.
[Tyler Daniels] Shimon Richmond, Special Agent in Charge of the OIG Miami Regional Office, thanks for your time. You can read more about OIG's Most Wanted List on our website, OIG dot HHS dot GOV. That's all for today, I'm Tyler Daniels. Thanks for listening.