FRAUD (FL)- 20 arrested, accused in $5 million Medicaid transportation scheme involving Jacksonville company

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20 arrested, accused in $5 million Medicaid transportation scheme involving Jacksonville company

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20 arrested, accused in $5 million Medicaid transportation scheme involving Jacksonville company

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement Thursday that 20 people have been arrested in a $5 million Medicaid scheme involving a Jacksonville transportation company.

RELATED | I-TEAM: Patients left stranded by non-emergency medical transportation provider

Many of the suspects are from Jacksonville, including Jose Hernandez Fernandez, who is the owner Sweet Transportation.

Investigators said the company, which provided non-emergency transportation for Medicaid recipients, billed Medicaid for thousands of patient trips that never happened. The trips were supposed to help patients receive medical care.

Hernandez Fernandez is accused of fraud, racketeering and money laundering.

The Medicaid transportation system has received plenty of complaints and was the subject of an I-TEAM investigation last year.

According to investigators, Jose Hernandez Fernandez started Sweet Transportation in 2019, and in 2020, when the company had just two drivers, it contracted with Modivcare, which is a vendor with the state to coordinate transportation for Medicaid patients. It was in 2022, investigators said, that Sweet Transportation reached its peak of 30 drivers.

The I-TEAM has previously reported on concerns about Modivcare and their various subcontractors arriving late for appointments or not at all.

On Thursday, News4JAX spoke again with Rene Reynolds, who said that her 84-year-old father struggled to get reliable transportation from Modivcare before his death earlier this year.

“It gives me a little bit more encouragement that there are good things that happen when somebody speaks up, me and other people speak up,” Reynolds said.

She said she’s not sure if Modivcare ever assigned Sweet Transportation to transport her father because she typically wasn’t made aware of which subcontractors were providing him rides.

According to investigators, Sweet Transportation drivers would bill for trips that never happened and inflate mileage for trips they did complete, but they were busted with help from the mandatory GPS technology installed in their vehicles.

In a separate civil lawsuit filed by the attorney general’s office, investigators said Hernandez Fernandez charged Florida Medicaid for nearly 3,000 trips as a driver in the Jacksonville area when he was actually in South Florida, Georgia, New York, Massachusetts, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and Puerto Rico.

“It’s refreshing to know that there is there is some justice out, there but I think it’s a drop in the bucket this fellow I think that there’s plenty more,” Reynolds said.

Hernandez Fernandez and 20 employees of Sweet Transportation are all accused of participating in the Medicaid scheme and are facing criminal charges and named in a civil racketeering lawsuit brought by the state.

According to police records, the investigation into Sweet Transportation began after United Health Care, which manages Medicaid services, complained about possible fraud.

A spokesperson for Modivcare sent the I-TEAM a statement Thursday, stating, “Modivcare has fully cooperated with the [Attorney General’s] Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) through the entirety of this investigation.”

News4JAX tried to reach Hernandez Fernandez’s attorney but has not yet received a response.