A Miami federal judge has issued another lengthy sentence in the nation's biggest mental-health fraud case, sending a therapist to prison for 35 years, reports the Miami Herald. The sentencing of Marianella Valera, 40, came a few days after the same judge sent her 49-year-old boyfriend, Lawrence Duran, to prison for 50 years. The pair ran Miami-based American Therapeutic Corp, which prosecutors say defrauded the taxpayer-funded Medicare program of more than $200 million.
In both cases, U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King gave out the longest prison sentences ever for a Medicare-fraud offender. Previously, the longest sentence was a 30-year term imposed in 2008 on a Miami physician convicted in an HIV-therapy scam. Duran and Valera pleaded guilty to a variety of conspiracy, fraud and money-laundering charges after they failed to reach plea deals with the Justice Department. The couple's company, with clinics stretching from Miami to Fort Lauderdale to Orlando, collected $87 million in Medicare payments after submitting $205 million in false claims. The couple paid kickbacks to recruiters to supply patients suffering from dementia, Alzheimer's, and addictions.