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Medicare: Massive fraud nets doctor 20-year sentence

Medicare fraud earned Florida doctor $1.2 million – and prison. Sentence is second-stiffest handed out for Medicare fraud in South Florida.

A closed American Therapeutic Corp. office in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. is shown Oct. 21, 2010, after federal authorities charged the company with Medicare fraud. Federal officials won another victory in South Florida June 27, 2011, when a District judge sentenced a doctor to 20 years for a nearly $20 million Medicare fraud.

J Pat Carter/AP/File

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MIAMI – A Florida doctor convicted of pocketing more than $1 million for writing phony prescriptions for unnecessary HIV treatments was sentenced Monday to almost 20 years in prison, for his key role in a massive Medicare fraud conspiracy. The scam bilked millions of dollars from the federal health care program.

Dr. Rene de los Rios, a 72-year-old Cuban-born physician trained in Spain, said virtually nothing at his sentencing as U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard hammered him for violating his medical oath, stealing from the vulnerable government program and disgracing himself, his family and his community. She also accused him of "blatantly lying" as a witness during his trial that ended with a jury's guilty verdict in April.

"Dr. de los Rios does not deserve the title of doctor anymore," the judge declared, rejecting his bid for about seven years in prison.

The doctor's sentence was the second stiffest of any meted out against a physician convicted of Medicarefraud in South Florida, which is widely regarded as the capital of crime against the federal program for the elderly and disabled. It rivaled that of Dr. Ana Alvarez-Jacinto, a Miami-Dade County physician convicted of a crime similar to Rios' HIV scam; she was sentenced to 30 years by Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno in 2008.

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