BELLE GLADE, FLORIDA (June 28) -- Attorney General Charlie Crist annouunced that two Miami-Dade County residents were arrested today for their roles in an organized fraud, money laundering and grand theft scam. Investigators with Crist's office determined that Hortensia I. Escoto ran a sophisticated operation in Belle Glade that defrauded the Florida Medicaid program out of more than $69,000, while her husband, Ricardo Isidro Escoto, laundered the money through a series of illegal activities. The clinic is located at 15 West Canal Street in Belle Glade.
Law enforcement officers with Crist's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit this morning arrested the couple after conducting a 14-month investigation. An arrest warrant has been issued for another couple involved in the fraud scheme. "Medicaid is in place to provide health care for the needy, not to line someone' pockets," said Crist. "This type of crime will be prosecuted whenever and wherever we find it."
The investigation revealed that Hortensia Escoto, 48, and Nieves Delgado, 33, jointly owned Belle Glade Family Health Group, Inc. They billed the Medicaid program for more than $69,000 for ultrasounds allegedly administered to minors, but never actually performed. Richard Escoto, 50, and William Alvarez, 36, then laundered the Medicaid money through the use of phony corporations, fake driver's licenses and fraudulent documents. Alvarez is Delgado's husband.
The Escotos are currently being held at the Miami-Dade County jail and are awaiting extradition to Palm Beach County. Each is charged with organized fraud, money laundering and grand theft. If convicted, each faces up to 60 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. Delgado and Alvarez are currently out of the country, but a warrant has been issued for their arrest. The case will be prosecuted by the Palm Beach County State Attorney''s Office.
Since 2003, the investigative and prosecution efforts of the Florida Medicaid Fraud Control Unit have resulted in 244 criminal convictions of individuals or entities charged in state and/or federal courts with
defrauding the state's Medicaid program. During the same period of time, the unit has recovered an excess of $165 million on behalf of the Florida Medicaid program.