Texas trio convicted of grim hospice care con
BY ARINZE IFEKAUCHE | January 4, 2021
Rodney Mesquias, owner of the Medina Health Care Group, and two of his top lieutenants were convicted of a $150 million conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and several other charges related to a nine-year plot to drive people with dementia into Medina hospice care facilities despite the fact they were not facing imminent death. Henry McInnis and former Rio Bravo, Texas Mayor Dr. Francisco Peña served Mesquais as Medina’s CEO and Medical Director.
From 2009 to 2018 Mesquias pushed thousands of patients with Alzheimer’s and similar cognitive ailments into hospice care through an aggressive marketing campaign. Medina employees falsely told mentally impaired seniors living in group homes, housing projects, and nursing homes that they had fewer than six months to live. The prognosis made the victims eligible for an expensive hospice care stay that was marketed to the victims as a medical benefit “you don’t have to die to use.”
Investigators found that some of the patients led active lifestyles and were still walking, driving, working, and even coaching sports. The goal of Mesquias’ scheme was to keep patients enrolled in hospice alive for as long as possible to maximize Medicare billing. What the victims did not know was that they were rendered ineligible for curative treatments and medications because of their hospice enrollment. “The way you make money is by keeping [patients] alive as long as possible,” Peña told a witness.
Mesquias paid kickbacks to physicians who steered hospice enrollees to Medina facilities. Prosecutors presented evidence at trial that laid out the disturbing lengths the con men would go to perpetrate the scheme. They dispatched chaplains to discuss last rites while enrolling the victims. And Mesquias fired employees that objected to the company’s unsavory practices.
“Financial healthcare fraud is abhorrent enough, but to fraudulently diagnose patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s is the pinnacle of medical cruelness to both the patient and their family,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas. “They falsely gave patients life ending diagnosis and they will pay the price with years behind bars.”
Mesquias’ operation filed $150 million in false claims. He used his ill-gotten money to buy luxury vehicles, high priced real estate, San Antonio Spurs season tickets, jewelry, a security detail, and bottle service at Las Vegas nightclubs. Mesquias also threw lavish parties for physicians who took part in the fraudulent enterprise, showering them with perks and tens of thousands of dollars worth of booze.
In addition to the healthcare fraud conspiracy charge, Mesquias and McInnis were both convicted of one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to obstruct justice as well as six counts of health care fraud. Mesquias was separately convicted on one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks.
Mesquias was sentenced to 20 years in prison and must pay $120 million in restitution for his crimes.