Fake doctor snatches millions from Medicare in phony prescriptions

For years, Alejandra Collazo posed as a licensed physician or a nurse practitioner, using the stolen identities of real physicians to forge prescriptions in a scam that prosecutors estimate cost Medicare more than $8 million. Now she'll spend 17 years in prison for her part in the scheme.

Collazo posed as medical doctor for Vortex Medical Center and Management Services, Inc. in Miami and forged prescriptions to home health services, according to a release by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida. She sold the prescriptions, submitted as false claims to Medicare, to patient recruiters for $100. Dubbed by prosecutors as a "catch-me-if-you-can character," Collazo wrote as many as 2,200 phony prescriptions, according to the Miami Herald. A report last year showed that forging prescriptions can be an easy crime to commit. 

Collazo founded the business with a convicted cocaine trafficker, Ricardo Corria, and later recruited a physician, Gonzalo Gonzalez, to be the medical director. Gonzalez reported Collazo once he realized the company was stealing from Medicare, but Collazo used his identity to continue writing prescriptions. Corria subsequently helped investigators develop a case against Collazo, leading to her arrest in August.

Meanwhile, in Detroit, an unlicensed physician was convicted of a fraud scheme that cost Medicare more than $5 million, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice. Wilfred Griffith worked as an unlicensed physician at Phoenix Visiting Physicians, treating patients with prescription pads pre-signed by another doctor. Griffith also referred patients to a home health company in exchange for kickbacks. The home health company then submitted false claims to Medicare totaling $4.7 million.

Finally, a Philadelphia psychiatrist was arrested for practicing and writing prescriptions on a suspended license, according to a release by the U.S. Attorney General of Pennsylvania. Jopinda Pal Harika allegedly saw at least 565 patients during a 32-day license suspension and wrote prescriptions for at least 453 patients.

For more:
- here's the Southern Florida U.S. Attorney's release
- read the Miami Herald article
- here's the Detroit DOJ release
- see the U.S. Attorney General of Pennsylvania release

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