Federal prosecutors named Caribbean Transfers as the financial backer that sent millions of dollars to Cuba as part of a Medicare-fraud scheme.
By Jay Weaver, JWeaver@MiamiHerald.com
An offshore remittance company called Caribbean Transfers financed a complex money-laundering ring that moved more than $30 million in stolen Medicare money from South Florida into Cuba’s banking system, federal authorities said Thursday.
The revelation surfaced in the widening case of a now-convicted check-cashing store owner who was first believed to be at the center of the federal case. It marked the first time that investigators traced tainted Medicare proceeds to Cuba’s state-controlled bank.
Now, Caribbean Transfers appears to have played the dominant role in the unprecedented money-laundering scheme.
Prosecutors have filed new conspiracy charges against the founder of the Caribbean-based company, Jorge Emilio Perez, who is at large, and two Miami-Dade men suspected of defrauding the taxpayer-funded Medicare program. The latter defendants, Felipe Ruiz and Kirian Vega, are accused of laundering their Medicare profits through the convicted check-cashing store owner, who did business with Caribbean Transfers.
The new information about Caribbean Transfers, which prosecutors say is licensed by the Cuban government, was disclosed during Ruiz’s bond hearing Thursday. Ruiz, a Cuban-born U.S. citizen, was denied bail because a judge found he might flee to Cuba or another country.
In June, the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami made national headlines when prosecutors charged Oscar L. Sanchez, owner of the Naples check-cashing store, with conspiring to launder millions of Medicare dollars via Canada and Trinidad into Cuba’s national bank. By late August,
Sanchez, 47, pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with authorities and repay the U.S. government $10 million, consisting primarily of residential investment properties he acquired with his wife in Southwest Florida.