By Kevin Deutsch
Patsy “Pat” Joseph Truglia, 53, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and one count of making a false statement in a matter involving a health care benefit program after he got caught running a criminal telemarketing scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Middle District of Florida.
Truglia faces a maximum of 15 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not been set.
Beginning in January 2018 and continuing into April 2019, Truglia and other conspirators, including co-defendant Ruth Bianca Fernandez, of Lauderhill, generated “medically unnecessary physicians’ orders” for orthotic devices like knee braces, back braces, and wrist braces, all through Truglia’s telemarketing operation in the Tampa area, according to federal court records.
Prosecutors said that Medicare beneficiaries’ personal and medical information was “harvested” to create unnecessary brace orders. According to the Department of Justice, the orders were then forwarded to purported “telemedicine” vendors that, in exchange for a fee, paid illegal bribes to doctors to sign the orders, often without contacting the beneficiaries.
The fraudulent, illegal brace orders were then returned to Truglia’s telemarketing operation, which used the orders as support for millions of dollars in fraudulent claims submitted to Medicare, prosecutors said.
To avoid Medicare scrutiny, Truglia and Fernandez spread the fraudulent claims across five storefronts operated under Truglia’s ownership and control, and Fernandez’s day-to-day management, according to DOJ.
In total, Truglia, Fernandez, and other conspirators caused approximately $25 million in fraudulent claims to be submitted to Medicare, resulting in approximately $12 million in payments, prosecutors said.
Their operation’s downfall began April 9, 2019, when multiple federal law enforcement agencies conducted “Operation Brace Yourself” targeting ongoing schemes, such as Truglia’s, in which companies paid illegal bribes involving physician brace orders, prosecutors said.
Federal authorities executed warrants at several of Truglia’s telemarketing storefronts, and Truglia and the storefronts were legally barred from “engaging in any further health care fraud conduct,” prosecutors said.
Undeterred, Truglia and other conspirators—some who had worked with Truglia in the earlier conspiracy, as well as some new conspirators—carried out a similar scheme using three new storefronts and different “telemedicine” vendors, according to DOJ.
Through their new operation, Truglia and his conspirators caused about $12 million more in fraudulent claims to be submitted to Medicare, resulting in approximately $6.3 million in payments, prosecutors said.
In 2018, records show Truglia and his wife purchased a $1.25 million home in Parkland Golf & Country Club.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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