Federal authorities are applying extraordinary court pressure to keep Philip Esformes locked in a Florida detention cell where he awaits trial for allegedly orchestrating an unprecedented $1 billion Medicaid and Medicare bribery and kickback scheme.
"This is the largest single criminal health care fraud case ever brought against individuals by the Department of Justice," Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said at a July 22 news conference announcing the charges.
Esformes has been denied bond despite a barrage of court pleas that include letters of support from nursing home patients and the recipients of his philanthropy. This brings forth a new challenge for a business family that has withstood two decades of Justice Department probes and Chicago Tribune investigations into allegations of patient abuse, corruption and substandard conditions at their Illinois, Florida and Missouri nursing home facilities.
The new federal indictment alleges that Philip Esformes and a handful of Miami co-conspirators bilked Medicaid and Medicare for 14 years by cycling some 14,000 patients through various Esformes facilities, where many received unnecessary or even harmful treatments.
Esformes faces a potential life sentence if convicted on charges of fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He has strenuously protested his innocence, that his reported $78 million in personal assets – with no debts or liabilities, is from nonstop labor and uncompromising honesty.
Morris Esformes, Philip's father and business partner, has not been charged in the case.
Separate from the pending federal indictment, the Chicago Tribune found that families have filed 20 wrongful death lawsuits since 2013 against seven of Esformes' facilities in Miami-Dade County. Four were on Florida's watch list of troubled facilities — among a total of only 11 nursing facilities in that area.