SLAP ON THE WRIST!
BY JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
(© 2017 Journal GlobaLinks)
CHICAGO (JGL) – The botched prosecution of what was billed as the “largest criminal health care fraud takedown” in U.S. Justice
Department’s history has ended yesterday with a 12-month home confinement for Richard Tinimbang, who waived his interest in reclaiming the $3-M property he forfeited in favor of the U.S. government.
Tinimbang, 39, who had originally faced 37 counts of Medicare fraud and visa fraud, was sentenced by Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer of the Northern District Court of Illinois in Chicago to “12 months to be served in home confinement, with voice recognition as method of verification with compliance” after pleading guilty to two counts of making false statements relating to health care matters and one-count of visa fraud. He will also be paying $300 fine.
The rest of the charges were dismissed on motion of the U.S. government.
His wife, Maribel Tinimbang, a physical therapist, was sentenced to 12 months probation after pleading guilty to knowingly obtain information without authorization from an employee at their family-owned Josdan Home Health in violation of HIPAA privacy regulation.
She pleaded “guilty regardless of any immigration consequences that her guilty plea may entail, even if the consequences is her automatic removable from the United States,” according to a plea agreement she signed.
SLIPPERY MOTHER OF DEFENDANTS:
JOSEPHINE TINIMBANG, owner of Donnarich, Josdan and Pathways, is still at large and is believed hiding in her native Philippines. (Photograb)
Maribel Tinimbang was also ordered to “seek, and work conscientiously at lawful employment or pursue conscientiously a course of study or vocational training that will equip you for employment” as she was ordered to permanently surrender her Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations Physical Therapy License within six months.
Maribel Tinimbang was earlier charged with paying to non-licensed physician, which was later amended to violating the HIPAA privacy regulation for obtaining the name and medical diagnosis of an individual.
Richard and Maribel Tinimbang and two alleged co-conspirators have been on trial last March for the past five weeks on charges alleging they paid kickbacks for patient referrals and fraudulently inflated Medicare bills for their home health care businesses between 2008 and 2014 when the trial was stopped for the failure of the government prosecutors to hand over key evidence to their defense lawyers.
Aside from the Tinimbang couple, the other co-accused in separate cases were Richard’s mother, Josephine Tinimbang, who remains a fugitive and is believed hiding in the Philippines; Janet Guerrero, manager of Josdan and owner operator of Pathways; Sherwin Cubelo; Jose Calub, a doctor whose case was dismissed; Sharon Gulla, Marilou Lozano, Ronald Malalis, Mary Pilar Mendoza, Avelina Fiel, Jerilyn De Guzman and Isabelita Sabejon, are all residents of Cook County and are all registered nurses, who worked and recruited patients for Pathways and Josdan, Monette Mojares, Director, Quality Assurance. The case of Vivian Baldemor, also a nurse, has also been dismissed. Josephine Tinimbang, owner of Donnarich, Josdan and Pathways, is at large.
The couple had allegedly amassed the ill-gotten wealth to fund a lavish lifestyle, including a 5,000-square-foot Lincolnwood mansion, a small fleet of luxury SUVs and at least $1 million in Facebook stock, according to the charges.
They also faced separate charges alleging they kept a nanny from their native Philippines in the U.S. as an indentured servant.
The Tinimbangs likely would have faced a decade or more in prison if convicted on the most serious charges if they did not sign the plea agreements. But Richard Tinimbang instead pleaded guilty to low-level felony counts that call for less than a year behind bars. His wife pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and likely will see no jail time at all.
The couple were earlier charged with superseding indictment with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud; health care fraud; conspiracy to pay and receive unlawful kickbacks (Count 14), payments of unlawful kickbacks (Counts 20-21), conspiracy to commit money laundering (Count 35), visa fraud (Count 36); and conspiracy to commit forced labor (Count 37).
CHARGES WHITTLED DOWN TO 3 COUNTS
At the plea agreement, Richard Tinimbang’s charges were whittled down to two counts of making false statements relating to health care matters and visa fraud.
The superseding information of Counts 1 and 2 were committed on Nov. 14, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2012 at Cook County when Richard Tinimbang knowingly and willfully made and caused to make materially false and fraudulent statements in connection with the delivery of payments for health care benefits and services.
From 2007 to March 2014, Richard Tinimbang was the owner of Patients First Physical Therapy (PFPT). He was also owner and administrator of Josdan Home Health Care and senior manager of Pathways Home Health Services, owned by another member of his family. He was responsible for preparing invoices on behalf of PFPT and submitting those invoices to Josdan and Pathways.
PFPT provided physical therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries, who were enrolled at Josdan and Pathways, which also submitted PFPT’s services on the bills they submitted to Medicare on a per-visit basis.
On Count 1 charge, it was on Nov. 14, 2012, Richard Tinimbang submitted to Medicare a claim for a 30-minute physical therapy visit to patient “J.R.” on Sept. 29, 2012. Medicare paid $4,476.25 on the claim. But such claim was submitted even though he knew the service could not have been provided on that date because the physical therapist, his wife, Maribel Tinimbang, was in Florida.
On Count 2 of the information, on Dec. 31, 2012, Richard Tinimbang knowingly and willfully caused Josdan to submit to Medicare a claim for a 30-minute physical therapy visit provided to patient “L.M.” on Sept. 28, 2012. Medicare paid $3,896.97 on the claim.
Tinimbang submitted such claim even though he knew the service could not have been provided on such date and even though defendant knew he had falsified the medical records related to that service. Defendant knew the service could not have been provided on that date because the physical therapist, Maribel Tinimbang, was in Florida.
On Count 3, on Sept. 13, 2011, Richard Tinimbang did knowingly present and cause to be presented an application and document required by the immigration laws and regulations prescribed which contained a false statement, subscribed as true as permitted under perjury with respect to a material fact, the filing of Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.
INFLATED NANNY'S SALARY TO $50,066 PER YEAR
He submitted the form to the Department of Homeland Security to obtain an H-1B visa for Individual A. H-1-B visas are available to individuals in specialty occupations, which require the use of a highly specialized body of knowledge, by submitting Form I-129.
In his application, Tinimbang said Individual A would be employed by Josdan as a business analyst earning $50,066 per year. He knew that those statements to be false because such employee would not be employed at Josdan. Rather, Individual A was going to work as a private assistant or housekeeper to his mother to assist with her daily activities and needs for $66 per day for seven years or else face deportation, $25,000 in liquidated damages and attorney’s fees. Yet, he signed Form I-129 under pain of perjury.
Counts 1 and 2 carry maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000 and he could be placed under supervised release of not more than three years. Count 3 carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000. And he could haven under supervised release of not more than three years.
Individual “A” had complained of sharing a bed with one of the grandchildren of her host and was threatened by Josie Tinimbang “to deport her if she did not sign the proposed contract.” Richard Tinimbang emailed Individual A a fake version of a letter to the Department of Homeland Security to make it appear he had reported the housekeeper to a fictitious ICE “Enforcement Removal Unit.”
He also copied his mother an email to the housekeeper, saying, “We know your former classmate, who is a nurse and is married to an American, is hiding you and that you are staying with her” and warned individual A that “we know a lot of people in Chicago, especially nurses… “ You won’t be able to hide for much longer.”
Richard Tinimbang also lied to the federal agents that he never met the housekeeper, saying he felt duped because she failed to report to work after defendant had paid all the fees needed for her visa.
According to government lawyers, Richard Tinimbang, as defendant received a first-class education in both the Philippines (Ateneo de Manila University) and the U.S., where he obtained a master of jurisprudence degree from Loyola University Chicago in 2004 and a master of science degree in learning and organizational change from Northwestern University in 2007.
Yet, he abused his legal training and position as an executive of Josdan when he submitted the false visa application and justified his submission of “paper work” as “victimless crime.”