Talks with Cuba could have implications for fraud fugitives

As President Obama charts a new course toward improved relations with Cuba, impending policy changes could have a significant impact on fugitives who have fled to Cuba after committing crimes in the U.S., according to Reuters.

A recent investigation by the Sun-Sentinel showed that, since 2000, 72 percent of healthcare fraud arrests in Florida involved Cuban-born immigrants. Experts say that loose federal oversight and high profits have made healthcare fraud "self-perpetuating" within the Cuban community, FierceHealthPayer: AntiFraud previously reported.

The Sentinel points to the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which lets Cubans enter the U.S. without background checks and return to Cuba to escape prosecution under U.S. law.

According to Reuters, Obama's new Cuba policy would let federal officials go after fraudsters even after they flee to Cuba. Officials plan to discuss legal issues between the two countries in the months ahead.

"We would hope to be able to expand some of that cooperation in the future as more normal relations go forward, and to have, frankly, a better relationship on that kind of issue," a senior State Department official told Reuters.

Since 2007, authorities have arrested and charged approximately 2,000 people who falsely billed Medicare and Medicaid more than $6 billion, according to the news service. The FBI provided Reuters with 64 South Florida Medicare fugitives. Fifty-eight were from Cuba--including Jorge Emilio Perez de Morales, who is wanted for orchestrating a $238 million Medicare fraud scheme. His brother, Eduardo Perez de Morales, pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme in December.

Attorney Carlos Fleites told Reuters that the problem is becoming too big for Cuba to ignore. For that reason, it is likely to be a sticking point during diplomatic negotiations.

"They have to cooperate somewhat if they want to have a normal relationship," he said. "They know where everybody is on the island. They could round up everyone overnight and fill a plane and have them in Miami in the morning. Hopefully judgment day is coming."

For more:
- read the Reuters article