17 December 2020
Rodney Mesquias, 48, has been ordered to serve 20 years in prison for falsely telling thousands of patients with long-term incurable diseases, such as Alzheimer and dementia, they had less than six months to live and subsequently enrolling them in hospice programs. He was also ordered to pay $120 million in restitution.
Mesquias paid kickbacks to physicians to fraudulently enrolling vulnerable beneficiaries in hospice care that prevented them from accessing curative care and stole millions of dollars from Medicare. Mesquias owned and controlled the Merida Group, a large health care company that operated dozens of locations throughout Texas. Merida Group marketers not only told patients they had less than six months to live they even sent chaplains to lie to the patients. They also discussed last rites and preparation for their imminent death.
Hospice services are meant for a terminal illnesses expected to result in death within six months. But Mesquias and others kept patients on services for multiple years in order to increase their revenue. Mesquias created false and fictitious medical records to avoid indictment. The records added false diagnostic information, making it appear that patients were dying when, in fact, they were not. Mesquias also treated physicians to lavish parties at elite nightclubs, providing them with tens of thousands of dollars in alcohol and other perks in exchange for medically unnecessary patient referrals.
Henry McInnis, 48, his co-conspirator, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to obstruct justice as well as six counts of health care fraud. McInnis will be sentenced at a later date. Francisco Peña, 82, also a co-conspirator, pleaded guilty. He was medical director for Merida Group. He was also mayor of Rio Bravo at the time. Peña died in November 2019.
Two other co-conspirators have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
Department of Justice reported.