New York boots Armor Correctional; In Florida, Armor boss named to powerful commission

By Dan Christensen, 

Dr. Jose Armas, owner and president of Armor Correctional Health Services, right, and Gov. Rick Scott

The company that provides health-care services to thousands of jail inmates across Florida, including Broward and Palm Beach counties, has been kicked out of New York for allegedly “placing inmates’ health in jeopardy.”

Armor Correctional Health Services paid $350,000 in penalties and agreed not to bid on or enter into any contract to provide jail health services in New York state for three years, settling formal charges brought in July 2016 by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. The lawsuit was filed after a dozen inmates died since Armor was hired, including five found to have received inadequate medical care, Schneiderman’s office said.

“For-profit jail providers must ensure that appropriate medical care is provided in jails, where many inmates suffer from complex medical needs,” Schneiderman said when the settlement was announced in October. “This settlement sends a clear message that companies who fail to provide the required health services to inmates won’t be tolerated in New York State.” Armor Correctional provided comprehensive medical services to the Nassau County Correctional Center.

Five months later, however, Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed Armor Correctional founder and president Dr. Jose “Pepe” Armas to a coveted seat on the powerful Constitution Revision Commission that will recommend changes next year to the Florida Constitution.

Armas and companies he controls have contributed nearly $300,000 to Scott’s election campaigns, his Let’s Get to Work political committees and to the Republican Party of Florida.

“Armas is a distinguished physician and healthcare executive whose focus on patient-centered care has defined his career,” Gov. Scott’s office said in announcing his appointment to the commission in March.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

A spokeswoman for Armas at Miami’s EvClay Public Relations sought to downplay Armor Correctional’s New York troubles, saying the company had made a “business decision” to pull out of New York three years before the settlement. Similarly, she described Armas as “solely” an investor in Armor and “not involved in its daily operations.”

Florida corporate records, however, have for years listed Armas as Armor’s president. And the company’s federal income tax returns from 2009 through 2013 state that Armas owned 100 percent of Armor. They also show that in 2012-2013 Armor paid Armas $9.6 million in dividends.

What happened in New York wasn’t the first time an Armas-led company has been in trouble.

In 2013, Armas’s MCCI Group Holdings LLC paid $1.6 million to the U.S. Department of Justice to settle a whistleblower lawsuit under the False Claims Act alleging that MCCI had violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and the Anti-Inducement Act. MCCI denied the allegations, but also paid another $300,000 in attorney fees to the whistleblower’s attorney.

“MCCI reached a settlement to avoid the delay, inconveniences and expense of litigation,” said Armas spokeswoman Melisa Chantres.

At the time, MCCI owned and operated medical clinics in Miami-Dade and contracted with Humana, which was also named in the qui tam suit, to provide care, including prescription drugs, to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

The complaint, filed in federal court in Miami, did not allege any wrongdoing by Armas himself, but contended that MCCI broke the law “by providing to its current and potential Medicare beneficiaries free services and gifts, such as transportation, meals, beauty and salon services, massages and entertainment,” according to the settlement agreement. The illegal activities allegedly took place between 2000 and 2012.

Scott’s Medicare fraud case

Long before Scott became governor in 2011, he was the founder and CEO of health-care titan Columbia/HCA and at the center of a much larger Medicare fraud case. Scott quit Columbia/HCA amid an FBI probe in 1997, and the company he built later paid a record $1.7 billion in criminal and civil fines.

MCCI was named in another South Florida whistleblower case filed by Dr. Mario M. Baez in 2012 and made public last year. Baez accused MCCI, Humana and several Palm Beach County physicians of “upcoding,” a fraudulent billing scheme in which health-care providers charge Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance payers for more expensive services than were performed.

Last month, the U.S. formally intervened in the case to recover damages against only one of those defendants, Dr. Isaac Kojo Anakwah Thompson, and not against MCCI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Lavine did not explain in court papers why the government declined to intervene against MCCI or Humana. Thompson, Baez’s former partner, was sentenced to 46 months’ imprisonment in July 2016 after pleading guilty to health-care fraud.

Baez could have filed an amended False Claims Act complaint to proceed against MCCI in the name of the United States, but did not do so. MCCI spokeswoman Chantres said the company was never served legal notice of the lawsuit and called Baez “a complete stranger to MCCI.”

Fort Lauderdale attorneys Christina Currie and Greg Lauer

In Broward, Armas’ Armor Correctional, its doctors and Broward Sheriff Scott Israel are defendants in a federal civil rights lawsuit in the death of William Herring Jr., 22, a mentally ill inmate who starved to death in December 2012 while allegedly being deprived of treatment.

The lawsuit filed last December by Fort Lauderdale attorneys Greg Lauer and Christina Currie notes that Armor was being paid $25 million a year by the sheriff’s office to provide comprehensive health care to county inmates.

“However instead of holding true to its promise Armor chose to maximize profits. Armor knew that the result of putting profits before patients would be that some inmates with serious medical conditions would not get the care that they were entitled to,” the lawsuit says.

The complaint goes on to identify five other Broward inmates who it says died “slow, horrible and preventable deaths in the same jail” from 2011-2012 because of Armor’s decision to maximize profits. The five are identified as: William Campbell, arrested for DUI; Gary Joseph Smith, arrested for possession of cocaine; Calvin Goldsmith, arrested for trespassing; Raleigh Priester, arrested for throwing a rock at a city employee; Arthur Sacco, arrested for an unspecified misdemeanor.

Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein’s office represents many inmates under Armor’s care. He said what he’s observed about Armor is disturbing.

“If you have a family member who is in jail and their life depends on Armor for medical treatment, you’re in trouble,” Finkelstein said. “The name of the game with Armor is to withhold treatment until the inmate is released, sent to prison and it becomes someone else’s treatment, or dies.”

Chantres said Armor does not comment on pending legal matters, but noted the company “strives to deliver excellent patient care daily.”

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3 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Who what when says:

    Isn’t it ironic that the same players always pop up with dubious endeavors BSO Scott Levin? Some folks have short memories others don’t. Remember El Sinadi!

  2. Erv Bartlett says:

    Crooks if a feather flock together

  3. “What About Darryl Woody!” His January 3, 2011 death, while on 1to1 Suicide Supervision at NUMC/NCCC was caught on Video Surveillance Cameras At the jail and the Medical center. This is a homicide being covered-up as a suicide by Ed- sticky-fingers -Mangano and his crony appointed cohorts at NCCC and NUMC. This is a “Major Scandal” that the media has failed to make public or hold NCCC/NUMC accountable. This is a political Hit-Job by Nassau County’s (federally indicted) enterprise corrupt racketeering ‘Boss’ Ed- sticky-fingers -Mangano and his clandestine regime, operating out of Nassau county’s Sheriff’s Department and the Corrupt Supreme Courts in mineral.! Where are the Feds? The Feds are in bed with NCCC. How does a mandatory [federal probe ] fail to investigate federally implement Video Surveillance Cameras that was installed to aid in investigations(!) This is made possible by the local media that fails to hold Nassau County accountable for transparency in this case. From Thomas Pizzuto to Bartholomew Ryan…”What About Darryl Woody!”  “We Can Handle The Truth!” “Release The (government protected) [electronic] Video Camera Surveillance Recordings (Files) that proves that Darryl’s (suspicious) death is being covered-up as Suicide. Where is the media when it comes to discovering the truth! Trial is set for September 11, 2017. We don’t need spectator media coverage,we need a voice in the interim to expose these perpetrators of Ed-sticky-fingers -Mangano and his racketeering agenda to Take Nassau County residents “Backwards Towards The Future” in his politically-engineered scheme to put NUMC’s Tragic-Care (back) in-charge of inmate health-Care at NCCC. This is a criminal conspiracy and cover-up. Tampering with (government protected) electronic Files is a FELONY in N.Y. state that carries up to seven years if committed with a malicious intent!  This is interfering with a government investigation_(the mandatory probe), conspiracy to obstruct Justice and criminal tampering. All in an colluded scheme to violate Darryl Woody’s Due Process to a a fair trial (lawsuit). This is systemic Human and Civil Rights deprivation of a mentally-ill pre-trial detainee who was falsely arrested, beaten, tortured and then ‘SUICIDED’ to silence him. In The Matter Of Darryl Woody who speaks for those who have been silenced? We need help; we need the media/press to “Call Them Out!” “What does Nassau County Have To Hide(!)”  “We Can’t Handle The Truth!”  Why can’t the media/press? Trial (politically engineered) for September 11, 2017. Index: 017721/2011

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