Did you know that the HHS inspector general’s office has a “most wanted health care fugitives” list? It is publicly listed on the OIG website where they are seeking more than 170 fugitives on charges related to health care fraud and abuse. This month, a fugitive that has been on the run for over 20 years was finally caught and arrested.
Robert Allen Lopez, who pleaded guilty to Medicare fraud on December 14, 1995, was arrested April 2016, at Miami International Airport. He is in custody and will face additional federal charges. Lopez fled the country after pleading guilty but before his sentencing hearing.
According to the indictment, from July 1991 until June 1994, Lopez and others conspired to defraud Medicare by filing false claims and structuring cash transactions to evade federal currency-reporting requirements. The fake claims totaled more than $ 4 million. OIG investigators found that Lopez established numerous companies in Miami, using sham owners to conceal that he was the true owner. These companies filed false Medicare claims on behalf of beneficiaries for services that were either medically unnecessary or were not provided.
Lopez also recruited friends and relatives to assist him as sham owners, according to the indictment. He directed them to open bank accounts where the fraudulently obtained Medicare reimbursements were deposited. To avoid reporting requirements for cash transactions exceeding $ 10,000, it is believed that Lopez directed the sham owners to make structured cash withdrawals from the accounts. When Lopez violated his bail agreement and left the country, he fled with his two children without his wife’s consent. His 10-year-old son was found four years later wandering the streets of Cancun, Mexico. The child was taken into protective custody and reunited with his mother in the United States.
Lopez was captured after OIG agents, together with the State Department Diplomatic Security Service (DDSS), got a tip that he was living under a false name in Nicaragua.
Agents from DDSS and the U.S. Marshals Service worked with the Nicaraguan government to apprehend Lopez and arrange his return to the United States