Thursday, November 8, 2007
Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Investigation Leads to 27 Years in Prison for Hidalgo County CounselorMCALLEN – A Hidalgo County jury today sentenced licensed professional counselor Sigifredo Flores, 52, of Progreso Lakes, to 27 years in prison for sexually assaulting patients in his care. An investigation by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) revealed that Flores sexually abused two children and two adults during counseling sessions.
Flores was convicted Tuesday on 11 counts of sexual assault and two counts of sexual contact, all second-degree felonies. He also was fined $125,000. The Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted Flores based on evidence uncovered by the MFCU.
“This sex predator violated the trust of patients who needed care and counseling,” Attorney General Abbott said. “The Office of the Attorney General is committed to aggressively prosecuting criminals who sexually abuse innocent victims. In this case, the defendant was a Medicaid provider who billed the government for his counseling services. Our Medicaid Fraud Control Unit will continue to investigate waste, fraud, and abuse by unscrupulous providers.”
Attorney General Abbott added: “We are grateful to Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra’s office for prosecuting this very troubling case. Thanks to our joint investigation with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and HHSC’s Office of Inspector General, a sex predator is no longer providing counseling services in Hidalgo County.”
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services referred the case to the MFCU in June 2005 after allegations surfaced indicating that Flores was sexually abusing patients. During witness interviews, MFCU investigators, along with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and the HHSC Office of Inspector General, learned that Flores had sexually assaulted two adults and two children who depended on him for mental health care. MFCU investigators arrested Flores in August 2006.
In December 2006, a Hidalgo County grand jury returned multiple indictments against Flores, including one count of theft over $20,000, a second-degree felony for which Flores will stand trial at a later date. According to MFCU investigators, Flores fraudulently billed Medicaid from June 2004 to June 2005 for one-hour individual counseling sessions. Investigators allege that Flores’ sessions lasted only 15 minutes and often included three or four patients at a time.
In 2005 alone, the costs of the Medicaid program in Texas totaled more than $17 billion. As the state’s chief law enforcement official, Attorney General Abbott has dramatically expanded the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) to save more taxpayer dollars and increase protection for Texas seniors. The Unit has established field offices in Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Lubbock, McAllen, San Antonio and Tyler through authorization and funding from the 77th Texas Legislature. Attorney General Abbott’s MFCU works with federal, state and local agencies to identify and prosecute those who defraud Medicaid.
The MFCU was honored in 2004 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the Inspector General’s State Fraud Award for effectiveness and efficiency during federal fiscal year 2003 in combating fraud, patient abuse and neglect in the Medicaid program.
To obtain more information about the Attorney General’s efforts to fight Medicaid fraud and abuse, access the agency’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.