Crime

Missouri Doc Sentenced for Health Care Fraud

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EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) – A Missouri doctor who spent a dozen years on the run from federal fraud charges in Illinois before being captured in Peru was sentenced Friday to three years and a month in prison and $320,000 in fines and restitution.

Dr. Juan Rios, 65, pleaded guilty in September to three counts of mail fraud and one count each of health care fraud and failing to appear in court.

Rios, who lived in the St. Louis suburb of Florissant, Mo., had medical offices in Collinsville and Bethalto when he admittedly defrauded several insurance companies of more than $400,000. Authorities say he pocketed more than $250,000 in fraudulent disability payments while he still worked.

Rios had faced only one fraud count alleging he cheated Medicaid and private insurers out of more than $1 million when he jumped $3.5 million bail and vanished in 1999.

Federal marshals returned Rios to the United States from Peru last June, when southern Illinois’ top federal prosecutor, Stephen Wigginton, publicly declared that “justice may have been delayed, but it will not be denied.” Wigginton credited “the unflagging efforts of investigators who did not give up the fight to have Rios returned to the same courthouse where he failed to appear over 12 years earlier.”

After Friday’s sentencing, Wigginton said the case “demonstrates not only the long arm of American justice, both in time and place” but also “the determination and commitment of governments around the world to work in common to pursue and convict fugitive fraudsters.”

“Committing fraud in one country and running to another country no longer provides cover for fraudsters,” Wigginton told The Associated Press. “It simply makes them criminal targets of two countries.”

Rios’ attorney, Burton Shostak, credited Chief U.S. District Judge David Herndon with fairly imposing a prison sentence both sides had agreed upon, ending the long-standing legal saga.

“All things considered, I think it was a good result for the doctor and the government in that it puts to bed a case which has been around for a long time,” Shostak told the AP. “Under the circumstances, my feeling is that the judge was very fair in his accepting of our plea agreement.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in 2000 that investigators found Rios’ patients did not receive as much as 80 percent of the physical therapy sessions for which he billed insurance companies. In one case, investigators said, one patient’s passport showed he was out of the country during the time of seven physical therapy sessions billed to an insurer.

Investigators alleged that Rios would duplicate his notes from an actual session and place them in other patients’ files.

It was also alleged that Rios defrauded his own insurance companies in 1993 and again in 1996 by claiming to be injured and only able to work a few hours a month, the Post-Dispatch reported. The insurers paid him more than $250,000 over a two-year span, even though he continued to work as a doctor.

Rios filed for bankruptcy in 1998 and is accused of using a false Social Security number in the case.

In 2001, state health care regulators revoked Rios’ medical license and simultaneously suspended him for allegedly failing to file state income tax returns from 1996 through 1999 and allegedly failing to pay state income taxes in 1995.

Rios also was sentenced Friday to three years of post-prison supervision.

© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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