BY ENRIQUE FLOR
A Miami federal judge denied bail Tuesday to TV entrepreneur Roberto Marrero, indicted on charges of stealing millions in a massive Medicare fraud scheme.
Justice John O. Sullivan denied the petition because of Marrero’s potential flight risk. Marrero has traveled to Cuba on four occasions, according to government arguments presented at the 40-minute hearing.
Defense attorney Frederick S. Robbins was upset by Sullivan’s decision.
“I disagree [with the decision], but I hope Mr. Marrero will eventually be freed on bail,” Robbins said after the hearing. “I honestly believe he is not a flight risk.”
Justice Department attorney Brendan Stewart said Marrero and his wife Sandra Fernández Viera, presented false invoices for more than $20 million to the Medicare program covering alleged house health-care services provided to diabetic patients.
Stewart said that Marrero received more than $15 million of that amount.
The indictment says the couple was part of a network of 89 people who conspired to commit Medicare fraud in an operation that extended from Miami to Detroit to Los Angeles. The group, which includes doctors, nurses and clinic operators, was charged collectively of conspiring to scam $223 million from Medicare.
Marrero, who appeared at the hearing handcuffed and shackled and dressed in khaki prison garb, is the owner of Cubana de Televisión’s local cable station. He and his wife were co-owners of Trust Care Health Services in Miami from 2007 to 2010.
Robbins said Marrero was not involved in the day-to-day operations, though he was the company’s titleholder.
“There is no question that he was the president of the company,” Robbins said. “But he did not manage the day-to-day operations. He made no payments to Medicare beneficiaries.”
Stewart said Marrero had recruiters of phony Medicare beneficiaries.
The indictment says that the couple paid thousands of dollars a month to Enrique Rodríguez, who provided patients with Medicare cards. Rodríguez was included in the indictment, charged with bribing Medicare patients.
At the hearing, Stewart said Marrero received $4 million deposited in corporations he had set up, in addition to more than $5 million from invoices issued by Trust Care Health Services.
Also, according to the indictment, his wife received $400,000 for Trust Care invoices.
Marrero said briefly that he no longer had money and that he had used it to pay the nearly 250 employees of the local TV station.
Relatives and friends who attended the hearing refused to comment.
Marrero comes from a family of Cuban actors and has played supporting roles in television series like Miami Vice, America’s Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries. In 2008, he opened a cable television studio in Allapattah and later transferred the business to Miami Beach. The channel has remained off the air since Marrero and his wife were arrested in mid-May.
According to the indictment, the Marreros sent illegal invoices to Medicare for services rendered to 700 diabetic patients who allegedly could not inject themselves with the insulin they needed and required the help of expensive trained nurses.
Additionally, the couple billed Medicare for physical therapy the patients did not need, according to the indictment.
The government program approved most of the invoices the couple sent.