Texas mayor-physician charged with $150 million Medicare fraud scheme in hospice and home health services

Ri Bravo Texas Mayor Francisco Pena, a licensed physicians has been indicted with federal charges of money laundering and conspiring with three others to defraud Medicare of $150 million in allegedly phony hospice and home health care services. The 11-count indictment unsealed Wednesday charges Dr. Pena with taking kickbacks to refer patients for services for which they did not qualify.

Charged with bribing Pena and other medical directors in the conspiracy are Merida Health Care Group owners Rodney Mesquias, 47, of San Antonio; Henry McInnis, 47; and Jose Garza, 40, both of Harlingen. All four men are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Mesquias and McInnis also are charged with obstructing justice by producing false and fictitious records to a federal grand jury, and instructing the others to do so.

Prosecutors say the men fraudulently kept patients on hospice services for years in order to allow them to continue to bill Medicare. Pena was elected to a four-year term as mayor of Rio Bravo, pop. 4,794, in November 2014. Rio Bravo is on the Rio Grande, 14 miles south of Laredo.

Prosecutors also charged Pena with lying to FBI agents in an interview where he denied taking kickbacks from a confidential source in exchange for patient referrals.