navarra-harrowing-experience-medicare-fraud

CHICAGO – Dr. Victoria “Vicky” Gallardo Navarra of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan was acquitted while a nurse pleaded guilty during a jury trial on a scheme involving approximately $1.6 million “in fraudulent Medicare claims for home health services that were procured through the payment of kickbacks, and that were medically unnecessary and not provided.”

Three others, including a doctor and a nurse, pleaded guilty before the start of the trial Doctor Navarra, 74, widow of the late Eduardo Navarra who was the fifth national chair of National Federation of Filipino American Association (NaFFAA), told this reporter, “It was a harrowing experience and I would not wish it on anyone. After four hours of deliberation, the jury found me not guilty of the charge of one count of conspiracy to commit Medicare fraud.”

Editha Manzano, 69, of Troy, Michigan was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks in connection with Medicare beneficiaries, and one count of health care fraud following a seven-day trial.

Manzano, co-owner, controller and manager of Anointed Care Services, a home health care agency, in Detroit, Michigan, is up for sentencing on April 19, 2018 before U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain of the Eastern District of Michigan.

The three others are awaiting sentencing. They are Dr. Roberto Quizon, 71, a licensed physician, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and owner of Green Cross Medical Center in Detroit, Michigan and Liberty Jaramillo, 67, co-owner, controller and manager of Anointed Care Services, of Troy, Michigan, who both pleaded guilty in June 2017; and Juan Yrorita, 63, registered nurse and assistant director of Anointed Care Services, of Sterling Heights, Michigan, who pleaded guilty during trial.

All the defendants were charged with Count 1 conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud; Editha Manzano and Liberty Jaramillio were both charged with Count 2 conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks; and Manzano, Jaramillo and Quizon were charged with Counts 3-5 for health care fraud.

Maximum penalty for charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1349 is 20 years of imprisonment and a “fine that is greater than $250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss pursuant to 18 U.S. Code Sec. 3571(d) and a three year term of supervised release.”

In an interview, Navarra told me that she saw the home care’s patient “just to do a favor when the owner begged me to see her patients because no one has been seeing them and they were all ‘sick’.”

“I saw them on a few weekends when I was free. When I heard rumors that they were not on the up and up, I stopped seeing their patients.”

She recalled that FBI agents came to her home “not letting me know that I was a suspect and I did tell them that I did not know specific details of any wrongdoing and I have not spoken to the (home health) owner since I stopped seeing their patients in September 2015.

”I did not hear anymore from them until I was arrested three days after Ed’s funeral. It was the most humiliating experience I have ever had in all my life.

“It looked like a SWAT team barging in to my home on TV. Immediately, I was brought to the Federal Building, waited until morning to be arraigned then discharged home to wait my trial in court.”

Eduardo Navarra, a former two-time (2010-2014) national chair of NaFFAA, died of stroke on Aug. 26, 2016, three weeks after attending the three-day 12th National Economic Empowerment Conference of NaFFAA in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

Doctor Navarra said the court dates were postponed six times before the trial finally got under way on Nov. 21, 2017.

She said her lawyer was excellent and initially thought that she would be dropped from the case since “he did not see anything wrong with my conduct in the case. But the government (prosecutors from Washington, D.C.), including seven to eight lawyers and several “special agents,” persisted and in fact spent $2 million to convict me.”

She said the agents said “no” on cross examination if she received a penny from the home health care or “I don’t know” when asked about “questions salient to the investigations regarding my involvement.”

“When she was acquitted, her friends who had been faithfully attending her trial cried and hugged each other. I was ecstatic, of course, but too numb to say anything. I thank God, my lawyer and all my friends who supported me here in the U.S., the Philippines and New Zealand.

“My two witnesses to my character and integrity helped, too, in spite of the lying prosecutors and witnesses. The jury obviously saw through them and found me not guilty. Thank God!”

Before the trial, Dr. Navarra was free on her own recognizance but gave her US passport to the authorities. Her passport was returned to her in the mail shortly after she was acquitted.

She said she is now preparing for her next annual medical mission in San Jose, Nueva Ecija, Philippines from Feb 12 to 16, 2017, saying, “God is good because I even found enough sky miles to pay for my trip. I have been on ‘automatic’ since all of these happened.

“I am very scared receiving my lawyer’s final bill. I paid about $50,000 even before the trial started.

“My daughter and her husband in Chicago, Illinois bought me a ticket even this late to go with them to Hawaii. We leave tomorrow and come back Christmas Eve to Michigan.”

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Joseph is a former reporter of the Manila Bulletin, former president of the Rizal-Metro Manila Reporters Association and former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Press Club of the Philippines. A native of Sorsogon, Philippines, he and his family now live in Chicago. A prolific reporter, Lariosa writes a column and news stories for the Filipino Star News and other Filipino community newspapers in the US as well as for GMA News and the Manila Bulletin.

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