Watchdog; Watchdog Blog

WATCHDOGS TODAY: Secret government study exposes infiltration attempts by Mexican drug cartels

|
Photo - A government study kept under wraps for more than a year describes at least 15 attempts by Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. (Bloomberg photo)
A government study kept under wraps for more than a year describes at least 15 attempts by Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. (Bloomberg photo)
News,Watchdog Blog

An internal study for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security describes 15 incidents in which known associates of Mexican drug cartels tried to inflitrate the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The same study detailed "turf battles, internal dysfunction and other troubles" that have hobbled the agency in its efforts "to get a handle on corruption and other misconduct within its ranks," CIR said.

The internal study was conducted by the Homeland Securities and Analysis Institute, which is an internal think tank for DHS. The study has been kept under wraps for more than a year, according to CIR. The study's authors said there may have been many more attempts by drug cartels to infiltrate the U.S. government in addition to the 15 discussed in their document.

"As part of lie detector tests, prospective hires have admitted to drug trafficking, human smuggling and other illegal activity, according to examples the agency previously provided to the Center for Investigative Reporting," CIR said.

"One applicant told examiners that he smuggled 230 people across the border and shuttled drug dealers around border towns so they could conduct their business," CIR said. "Another admitted to various crimes, including transporting $700,000 in drug money and 50 kilograms of cocaine across the Southwest border."

A total of 146 agency officers and agents have been charged with or convicted of corruption-related offenses since Oct. 1, 2004. Among the offenses charged were accepting bribes to allow drugs to enter the U.S. and stealing tax money.

Go here for CIR's complete report on the study.

Miami therapist headed to prison for Medicare fraud

A 35-year-old Miama-area therapist is going to federal prison for four years for her role in a $205 million Medicare fraud scheme exposed by the Inspector-General of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Nickole Eckert was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz in the Southern District of Florida. Seitz also ordered Eckert to pay more than $72 million in restitution to the government (jointly and severally with her co-defendants), and to serve three years of supervised release. Eckert was convicted Nov. 15, 2012, on one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud following a 16-day trial.

"Evidence at trial demonstrated that the defendant and her co-conspirators caused the submission of false and fraudulent claims to Medicare through ATC, a Florida corporation headquartered in Miami that operated purported partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) in seven different locations throughout South Florida and Orlando," according to the Department of Justice.

A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. The defendant and her co-conspirators also used a related company, American Sleep Institute, to submit fraudulent Medicare claims, DOJ said.

"Evidence at trial revealed that Eckert fabricated therapist notes and other documents for patient files and submissions, and taught others to fabricate them, to make it appear both that ATC patients were qualified for PHP treatment and that they were receiving the intensive, individualized treatment PHP is supposed to be," the department said.

Eckert's conviction is the latest of hundreds resulting from creation of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force in 2009. To date, 1,480 individuals and corporations have been charged with fraudulent billings worth more than $4.8 billion. The MFSF includes elements from DOJ, HHS, the HHS-IG and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid in HHS.

Go here for more from DOJ on the case.

DON'T MISS! Another Obama EPA appointee snared in Windsorgate email scandal

View article comments Leave a comment