Ernesto Cruz Graveran needed to get from Florida to Cuba and, having been stripped of his passport, he planned his escape accordingly, federal prosecutors said.
Graveran’s best-laid plans weren’t good enough, the agent said.
On June 8, Border Patrol agents rescued him and the alleged smuggler from their broken-down Jet Ski and, after a judge’s approval, had him jailed in the Federal Detention Center in Miami. Federal prosecutors allege that Graveran was trying to flee to Cuba to escape an investigation into a multimillion-dollar Medicare scheme.
Graveran, 54, has since been charged with health-care fraud. Court records do not list an attorney for Graveran.
Federal prosecutors are accusing him of submitting $4.2 million in bogus Medicare claims from February to April through his Florida-based company Xiko Enterprises. Medicare paid Xiko a total of $2.1 million to settle those claims, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida said Tuesday in a statement.
During that time, Xiko billed the federal government for medical equipment that it claimed had been prescribed to 145 patients of a physician identified as “Dr. A.B.” to the tune of about $1.2 million, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Carlos Suarez said in a sworn affidavit. Medicare paid Xiko about $778,000 to settle those claims. But when investigators checked with Dr. A.B.’s office, a representative told them none of the 145 beneficiaries were patients there, according to the affidavit.
In one of those cases, Xiko submitted some $7,000 in claims for medical equipment the company said it had provided to a patient identified in court documents as “C.F.,” specifically collagen and hydrocolloid dressings, according to court records. Medicare paid Xiko $5,600 as a result, Suarez said in the affidavit. However, C.F. told law enforcement that she never received, requested or needed any such equipment.
“C.F. further states that she had never ever heard of Xiko,” Suarez wrote.
On May 20, law enforcement agents learned that Graveran was scheduled to fly to Havana out of Miami in two days, the affidavit said. Later that day, they approached him at his home, where officials said he agreed to cooperate with their investigation. Before they left, the agents took Graveran’s passport.
Two and a half weeks later, he was plucked out of the Atlantic Ocean.
For now, Graveran is being held without bond at the detention center. Prosecutors have argued — and a judge has agreed — that he may attempt to flee the country again if given the opportunity.
“Graveran is a Cuban citizen with extensive ties to Cuba and limited ties to the Southern District of Florida. All of his family members reside in Cuba and he has a recent history of travel to” his homeland, Alicia Otazo-Reyes, a federal magistrate judge, wrote in her order to detain Graveran, in which she said there was “a serious risk” he would flee if let out of jail.