Opening statements made in $1B Florida Medicare fraud case

MIAMI (AP) — A federal prosecutor has told jurors a Florida health care executive used bribery, kickbacks and false paperwork in a $1 billion effort to fleece Medicare and Medicaid, one of the biggest such cases in U.S. history.

But an attorney for 50-year-old Philip Esformes told jurors as trial began Tuesday in Miami that he was no criminal but a driven businessman who legitimately operated nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida.

The trial is expected to last about eight weeks.

The case involves alleged bribes to doctors to refer patients to Esformes’ facilities even if the medical services weren’t necessary, followed by false billings to Medicare and Medicaid. Esformes is also accused of accepting kickbacks to refer patients to other health care providers that billed for unnecessary services.

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