MIAMI - THE top two officials of a leading chain of community mental health centres were among four people arrested in Miami on Thursday in connection with a scheme involving about US$200 million (S$260 million) in fradulent medical claims, US prosecutors said.

The four conspired to charge Medicare, the federal health insurance plan for the elderly and disabled, for mental health services that were either unnecessary or never provided to patients, according to the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida.

The arrested were: Lawrence Duran, owner of American Therapeutic Corp; Marianella Valera, chief executive officer of the company; and two other senior employees of American Therapeutic. The company is among the nation's largest chain of community mental health centers licensed by Medicare.

They were charged in a 13-count indictment with conspiracy to defraud the United States and to receive healthcare kickbacks and to pay healthcare kickbacks.

The indictment alleges American Therapeutic and its senior employees conspired to bill Medicare for group therapy sessions for patients in assisted-living facilities, many of whom suffered from Alzheimer's disease or other severe dementia.

The assisted-living facilities allegedly received kickbacks for the referrals to American Therapeutic.

Healthcare fraud uncovered