6 RIers charged as part of health care fraud sweep

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Six Rhode Islanders are among hundreds of people charged in a nationwide health care fraud crackdown.

The Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office announced the arrests Thursday. The six suspects are charged with medical assistance fraud and conspiracy:

  • Giovanne Gomez, 29, of Providence
  • Tomas Espinal, 40, of Providence (Espinal is also charged with money laundering, according to Attorney General Peter Kilmartin)
  • Margarita Martinez, 55, of Providence
  • Mariser Liranzo, 37, of Providence
  • Martine Silva, 41, of Providence
  • Anair Centeio, 40, of North Providence

The six defendants are accused of stealing the identities of former employees of a state Medicaid provider. According to the attorney general’s office, the suspects used the stolen identities to submit falsified time sheets. Investigators traced the pay from those time sheets to bank accounts linked to the suspects. The attorney general’s office estimated the scheme netted the suspects approximately $130,000 in fraudulent pay.

The arrests were part of what U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday was “the largest health care fraud takedown operation in American history.” Sessions said the sweep had led to charges against more than 400 people, accused of taking part in schemes that totaled $1.3 billion in false billing. Officials said more than 120 of the suspects were involved in illegally prescribing and distributing narcotic painkillers.