The owner of a Texas-based hospice chain has been sentenced to 20 years in prison and to pay $120 million in restitution for enrolling ineligible Medicare beneficiaries in hospice programs.
Rodney Mesquias deceived thousands of patients, telling them they only had a few months to live in order to enroll them in hospice programs and secure Medicare reimbursements. The vulnerable patients he targeted suffered from Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other chronic conditions.
After a trial that lasted one month, Mesquias was convicted by a federal jury. Prosecutors said Mesquias used his fraudulent scheme to fund “his lavish lifestyle,” causing individuals with incurable diseases unimaginable stress.
U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas said in a statement, “Financial healthcare fraud is abhorrent enough, but to fraudulently diagnose patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s is the pinnacle of medical cruelness to both the patient and their family. They falsely gave patients life-ending diagnosis, and they will pay the price with years behinds bars.”
According to prosecutors, Mesquias paid kickbacks to doctors in exchange for false diagnoses that would allow him to enroll them in lucrative hospice care. He had a co-conspirator, Henry McInnis, who was also convicted of healthcare fraud. Physicians who went along with the scam were often invited to lavish events at exclusive Vegas nightclubs.
Between 2009 and 2018, Mesquias’ company, Merida Group, which operated dozens of facilities across Texas, submitted false claims for payment to the government for a total of $150 million.
When an employee of Merida Group refused to go along with the scheme, Mesquias quickly fired them. According to court documents, he told them not to “[expletive] with his patients or [expletive] with his money.” One of his co-conspirators reportedly said, “the way you make money is by keeping [hospice patients] alive as long as possible.” The fraudsters even went as far as performing life-prolonging surgeries.
Mesquias did himself no favor when he presented false medical records in court, trying to convince a grand jury that hospice-enrolled patients were dying, which was not true.
To launder proceeds from the illegal scheme, Mesquias purchased luxury goods including a Porsche, jewelry, Louis Vuitton items, real estate, and bottle service at elite nightclubs.
The case could lead to more convictions as several of Mesquias’ co-conspirators are also facing charges.