Local men plead guilty to Medicare fraud scheme

McALLEN — Two Rio Grande Valley men face a minimum 10 years in federal prison in connection with a scheme the two allegedly ran to defraud Medicare.

Omar Solis Sanchez, 35, of Mission, and Ivar Cantu Maldonado, 46, of Palmview, reached plea agreements with federal government prosecutors on Dec. 7 and Dec. 19, respectively, related to a Medicare fraud scheme indictment filed against the two this summer, according to court records.

As part of their agreements, both men agreed to plead guilty to the first count of the indictment, healthcare fraud. In exchange, federal prosecutors will drop the remaining 17 counts against them during their sentencing, court records show.

Solis, who worked as a lab technician at the Arrango Family Clinic in Mission, and Cantu, an account representative for Quality Toxicology LLC, a toxicology testing company based in San Antonio, allegedly fraudulently submitted doctors’ registration forms and unapproved toxicology screens to Quality Toxicology.

It’s also alleged that Solis and Cantu forged patients’ signatures, misappropriated patients’ personal information, and in one instance Solis threatened a fellow Arrango clinic employee who learned of the scheme, the indictment states.

Solis also allegedly took urine samples from the clinic’s patients and sent them to Quality Toxicology.

“During the latter half of 2015, Solis allegedly took urine specimens of patients of the medical clinic and sent them to the toxicology testing company without the consent of the patient or doctor in order to receive commissions and collection fees from the testing company,” a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office states. “Cantu and Solis forged patient signatures, falsified medical records and created fictitious documents in carrying out the scheme, according to the indictment.”

In exchange, Solis and Cantu received commissions and collection fees from Quality Toxicology for the urine samples, according to the unsealed indictment.

The government alleges that from about May 2015 to about December of that year, Solis and Cantu conspired with others not named in this indictment to defraud Medicare programs by submitting false Medicare claims for lab-testing services that were not medically necessary, authorized by a physician and without the patients’ knowledge, then reaping the benefits of those claims.

As part of their plea agreement, both men agreed to pay a restitution of $166,866.78 each — a total of $333,733.56 — the amount that was a loss to the Medicare program as a result of the alleged conspiracy, court records show.

Solis and Cantu are due back in court Feb. 28 for their sentencing hearing, where it is possible they each receive up to 10 years in federal prison.