Feds charge ex-Miami Beach Health Center CEO with stealing millions

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By US Attorneys Office (Feb 13, 2013) -  Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Kathy Fernandez Rundle, State Attorney for Miami-Dade County, jointly announced the filing of a federal and state charges against defendant Kathryn Abbate, 64, of Hollywood, Florida. 

Abbate is charged by Information in the federal case with theft of money from programs receiving federal funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 666.  If convicted, Abbate faces up to 10 years imprisonment, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000, and she may be ordered to pay restitution. 
 
In the state case, Abbate is charged by Information with one count of an organized scheme to defraud and one count of grand theft in the first degree, in violation of Florida Statutes Sections 817.034(4)(a)1 and 812.014(2)(a).  If convicted, Abbate faces up to 30 years imprisonment. 
        U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said “Holding accountable those who steal from the federal government for personal profit is one of my top priorities.  Kathryn Abbate, the former CEO of the Miami Beach Community Health Center, was charged today with stealing federal funds from the most vulnerable among us – the sick, the elderly and the poor.  We will not relent in our efforts to charge individuals who use the health care system to line their own pockets.  Our investigation remains ongoing.”
 
        Kathy Fernandez Rundle, State Attorney for Miami-Dade County, said “There is no excuse for the theft of funds intended to heal the sick and the poor of our community.  Every stolen dollar took a part of a sick person’s future.  I am gratified that the State Attorney’s Office, the United States Attorney’s Office and the Miami-Dade Office Inspector General were able to develop the evidence to charge the responsible individual and to help correct an oversight system that allowed this theft to happen.”
 
        According to the Information filed in U.S. District Court, from 2008 to 2012, Abbate was the Chief Executive Officer of the Miami Beach Community Health Center (“MBCHC”).  MBCHC was a federally qualified Health Center, which is a community-based organization that provides medical care to persons regardless of ability to pay, with locations in Miami Beach and North Miami, Florida.  To carry out its mission, MBCHC was funded by federal, state, and local grants, as well as private donors.  MBCHC received federal funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
 
        Furthermore, according to the Information filed in U.S. District Court, Abbate embezzled money from MBCHC when she obtained unauthorized compensation by causing MBCHC to issue unaccrued vacation pay to her that was not approved nor authorized by the Board of Directors.  Abbate also caused MBCHC to disburse millions of dollars in over eight hundred checks made payable to her for “community development.”  Funds from these checks were subsequently misappropriated by Abbate.  Furthermore, Abbate knowingly provided fraudulent documentation to MBCHC’s auditors which falsely indicated that one million dollars of these funds were paid to five doctors.  The aggregate value of the property under the care, custody and control of MBCHC that the defendant is charged with embezzling was several million dollars. 
       
        U.S. Attorney Ferrer and State Attorney Rundle thanked the law enforcement agencies involved in this investigation, as well as MBCHC for its cooperation in the investigation.  The Federal case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S Attorneys Michael N. Berger and Patrick Sullivan.  The State case is being prosecuted by Assistant State Attorneys Marie Perikles and Tim Vandergiesen.
 
        An Information is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.
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Source: Dept of Justice