NEW YORK – Two sisters who ran a mobile phlebotomy company were sentenced on Monday for defrauding the Medicare program, the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California said this week.
Gabriella Santibanez and Lisa Hazard, both of California, were sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay $7.5 million in restitution. The sisters ran PhlebXpress, which provided phlebotomy and other medical collection services at patients' homes and long-term care facilities in Sacramento, California, and elsewhere. According to the US attorney's office, Santibanez and Hazard billed Medicare for services that were not covered by the federal program and overbilled Medicare for mileage that PhlebXpress' phlebotomists had not traveled.
On average, PhlebXpress overbilled Medicare for more than 140 miles for each patient seen, the US attorney's office said, adding that the company caused a loss of $7.5 million to Medicare due to false billing.
In November 2020, Medicare suspended payments to PhlebXpress due to "credible allegations of fraud," but between July 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2021, Santibanez and Hazard tried to circumvent the suspension by telling Medicare that the services provided were performed by another company, Phlebotomy Solutions, though they were, in fact, provided by PhlebXpress.
That included overbilling Medicare for mileage. As a result, Santibanez and Hazard caused a loss to Medicare of at least $50,000 due to false billing by Phlebotomy Solutions.