Psychologist pleads guilty to fraud; admits one-third of patient files are bogus
August 6, 2012
A clinical psychologist from National City (California, near San Diego) admitted in federal court Thursday to immigration and Social Security fraud in connection with a scheme to falsify medical certifications to the federal government.
Roberto J. Velasquez, 55, pleaded guilty to two criminal counts during a hearing before Magistrate Judge William McCurine Jr. in San Diego.
Velasquez admitted to falsely certifying that dozens of patients were disabled and therefore eligible for disability benefits or exemptions from immigration requirements, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
To further the fraud, Velasquez fabricated patient histories and test results, suggested symptoms and complaints that did not exist, intentionally underestimated patient scores on standardized tests, and lied about the length of time he had been seeing the patients, prosecutors asserted.
In his plea agreement, Velasquez admitted faking two types of disability reports, including medical certification for disability exception forms, which are used by the Department of Homeland Security during the naturalization process.
Those false certifications allowed certain immigrants to avoid taking English-language and civics portions of the U.S. citizenship exam. Based on the fraudulent documents, the Department of Homeland Security granted disability exemptions to at least 25 immigrants who were not actually eligible for them.
Velasquez also conceded that he submitted fraudulent medical reports to the Social Security Administration. Beginning in 2006, and continuing up to the date of Velasquez's arrest in April, the agency paid out at least $1.5 million in unwarranted disability benefits based on Velasquez's false certifications, according to court filings.
Velasquez, who admitted that about one-third of his patient files contained false statements and bogus certifications of disability, faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, fines up to $500,000 and restitution orders when he is sentenced Oct. 10.
The case, part of the U.S. Attorney's Health Care Fraud initiative, was jointly investigated by the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Homeland Security Investigations and the Office of Inspector General, Social Security Administration.
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