The Miami Herald has more coverage of the Cuban dictatorship’s apparent connection with rampant Medicare fraud in South Florida:
Medicare fraud’s men in Havana
If the feds’ case sticks, Oscar L. Sanchez will be convicted as a cash-for-Cuba financier of fraudsters, “a capitalist for Cuban banks,” as prosecutors wrote in a court motion, accusing the 46-year-old South Florida man of conspiracy to commit money laundering for a group that funneled $63 million of stolen Medicare payments to Havana banks. You think the Cuban government was in on it?
For the skeptics, I have two words: Robert Vesco.
The fugitive American financier was accused of securities fraud in the 1970s and after trying to buy his own island from the country of Antigua, popped up in Havana in 1982, protected by the communist regime from extradition to the United States. Alas, the commie honeymoon didn’t last once Vesco’s millions seemed to run out. Cuba arrested him in 1996 for “fraud and illicit economic activity .?.?. acts prejudicial to the economic plans and contracts of the state.” He didn’t last long in prison, dying of lung cancer a few months later.
Sanchez’s acts, federal prosecutors say, have been prejudicial to U.S. taxpayers, by about $31 million, which is the amount the federal government says it tracked from 2005 to 2009 through a complicated web of foreign shell companies Sanchez created using his check-cashing business to funnel the Medicare payments from the United States to Canada, Trinidad and eventually Cuba. The money in at least two accounts deposited in the Trinidad bank in Havana came with instructions to be wired into the Cuban banking system.
Still, prosecutors say there’s no direct evidence linking the Cuban regime and the Castro brothers to the plot.
Well, no kidding. After 53 years of elaborate schemes, murder and mayhem from Angola to Venezuela, Fidel and Raúl have gotten pretty good at it. But the bottom line really isn’t that complicated if the doubters care to seek the truth. Nothing happens in Cuba without the consent of the Castros. Certainly nothing having to do with money, and certainly not millions of dollars in deposits in Cuban government-controlled banks. Was the Cuban government taking a cut?
You betcha. And that’s no conspiracy theory. It’s simple mathematics — and history.
WikiLeaks cables: In the past U.S. diplomats didn’t find evidence of money laundering in Cuba
A series of cables from diplomats at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana a few years ago indicates that at the time they found no “direct evidence’’ of money laundering in Cuba, but said the island has one of the world’s “most secretive” banking systems.
Two of the U.S. diplomatic reports, which were made public by WikiLeaks, were replies to State Department queries sent to all U.S. embassies in 2008 and 2009 on how their host governments were handling measures on fighting money laundering and combating financing of terrorism.
Both reports were unclassified, indicating they contained no information considered sensitive by the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, called the U.S. Interests Section because the two nations do not have full diplomatic relations.
“The U.S. government does not have any direct evidence of money laundering or terrorist financing activities in Cuba in 2009,” one dispatch said, adding that the Cuban government did not “publicly report any significant arrests, seizures or prosecutions.”
Both cablesadded that Cuba has “one of the most secretive and non-transparent national banking systems in the world.”
The reports noted that “the national media in Cuba is completely controlled by the state, which permits only laudatory press coverage of itself” and that the government “does not routinely publish or publicize” anti-money laundering or counter-terrorist financing activities.
Questions about Cuba’s banking system and its anti-money laundering controls have come up this week because U.S. prosecutors on Monday charged Oscar Sánchez of Miami in a money-laundering scheme that allegedly sent $31 million in Medicare fraud money to the island. They later added that there was no proof the Cuban government was behind the scheme.
The wild ups and downs of an alleged Medicare scammer
NAPLES — A couple of years before being accused of laundering millions of dollars stolen from Medicare that ended up in the Cuban banking system, Oscar Lázaro Sánchez had transformed himself into a prosperous real estate investor with a dozen properties in Florida’s west coast.
None of his tenants had any idea that the 46-year-old man who visited every month to collect the rent in cash had been arrested a week before in connection with a massive bank transfer to Cuba of about $31 million.
“I’m shocked,” said Mayte Oquendo, who rents an apartment in Naples for $750. “He was a very simple man. He came wearing flip-flops.”
This is only a part of the trajectory of Sánchez, who came to the United States in the 1980 migratory wave of the Mariel boatlift.
According to public records, he was a driver for a Hialeah company, but he had stolen automobiles before in Miami.