Medicare fraudsters seeking refuge in Cuba

The number of criminals charged with healthcare fraud in South Florida has tripled since 2008, reports the Miami Herald, but many of those facing prosecution have been fleeing to Cuba and countries in Central and South America. The fraud eventually deprives hospitals of sorely needed Medicare revenue.

Despite the uptick in pursuing healthcare scammers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has caught only 16 fugitives. The number that remains at large is about 10 times greater. Of the top 10 fugitives listed by the Department of Health & Human Services' Office of the Inspector General, seven are Cuban.

"They go to Cuba so they can't be caught,'' Rolando Betancourt, a Miami bail bondsman who has tracked one Medicare fugitive to Havana, told the Herald. "You can find anybody in Cuba; you just can't arrest them.''

Among the primary reasons: The United States has not had official relations with Cuba for more than half a century. Without diplomatic relations in place, negotiating an extradition treaty is impossible.

A report issued by the University of Miami and other experts suggested that Cuba was sheltering the perpetrators of Medicare fraud in exchange for payments of U.S. currency, notes the article.

For more:
- read the Miami Herald article
- check out the OIG's "Most Wanted Fugitives" list