MIAMI (AP) — A federal judge has ordered a South Florida man held until his arraignment Friday for allegedly conspiring to launder tens of millions of Medicare fraud dollars that authorities say were eventually funneled into the Cuban banking system.
In a motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Miami, prosecutors said Oscar Sanchez, a 46-year-old U.S. citizen and native of Cuba, provided cash to the masterminds behind the alleged fraud in exchange for a fee. They also said Sanchez conspired to send money from the Medicare fraud first to shell companies in Canada before it was passed on through a Trinidad bank and eventually onto Cuba.
Sanchez's attorney, Peter Raben, said his client was in federal custody and would be arraigned Friday. Raben declined comment on the charges.
According to a motion signed by the U.S. Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer, "evidence shows that Sanchez was intimately involved in the vast laundering operation while it was occurring."
Prosecutors are seeking more than $22 million in property from Sanchez. If convicted, he could face 13 years in prison.
The case is part of a much broader health care fraud investigation.
In the mid-2000s, 70 companies in South Florida billed for items such as HIV-related drugs and medical equipment, and Medicare deposited more than $70 million into those companies' corporate bank accounts, according to prosecutors. Nearly half of that money was then moved overseas, authorities said.
Authorities have already filed cases against half a dozen individuals who controlled companies that allegedly sent money through Canadian banks in connection with the case.
In the motion filed Monday, prosecutors called Sanchez a flight risk, noting he has made nearly 80 overseas trips in the last decade, many to the places where they allege the money was being laundered.
Miami has been a hub for Medicare fraud. Last year, three Miami brothers, made the top of the list of the nation's most wanted health care fugitives. Prosecutors say the three fled to Cuba.
Some Cuban exiles have alleged that the Cuban government has been taking a cut of money allegedly sent to the island.
The Cuban government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Sanchez case.