Family and friends of Philip Esformess have pledged almost $3 million to help him get out of jail

By K.C. Baker
Updated September 08, 2016 03:40 PM
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He’s been accused of running the largest Medicare fraud in U.S. history, allegedly using ill-gotten funds for private jets, escort services and to hire a pricey basketball coach for his 16-year-old son, according to court records obtained by PEOPLE.

But Philip Esformes, 47, remains behind bars, as his lawyers battle a federal judge who has denied Esformes bail until his trial for allegedly bilking government programs out of $1 billion, according to court records.

“This is the largest single criminal health care fraud case ever brought against individuals by the Department of Justice,” Leslie Caldwell, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced in a statement when Esformes and two others were indicted on July 21.

More than 30 family members, friends and rabbis have joined together to pledge $3 million to help Esformes obtain a bond so he can be released from the Miami Federal Detention Center, where he has been held since his July arrest, according to the Miami Herald.

But Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres will not let Esformes out of jail, ruling on August 5 that he is a flight risk and could obstruct justice in the ongoing investigation, according to court records.

The Miami millionaire and philanthropist, who owns the Esformes Network of more than 20 skilled nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Miami-Dade county, faces a possible sentence of life in prison if he is convicted of health care fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and other charges, according to court records.

The U.S. Department of Justice alleges that Esformes used his chain of nursing homes and a network of hospitals, doctors and health care providers to fraudulently bill taxpayer-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs out of $1 billion by filing false claims for unnecessary services or services that were never rendered, according to court records.

Esformes and others also allegedly got kickbacks for sending patients to certain health care providers, according to the court records.

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Also charged in the alleged scheme are Arnaldo Carmouze, a 56-year-old physician’s assistant, and Odette Barcha, 49, a former hospital administrator.

Judge Torres granted them bonds, according to court records.

As Esformes awaits trial, his lawyers are appealing Torres’s decision to detain their client, according to the Miami Herald.

His lawyers say Esformes is innocent, according to reports.

Esformes’s lawyer, Michael Pasano, issued a statement to PEOPLE, reading:

“Mr. Esformes is a successful and respected businessman. He loves his children and is dedicated to his religion. He is a very hard worker. Government indictments have a way of demonizing the accused and often present an unfair and incorrect image of the person charged. That is true here.

“Mr. Esformes is still fighting to be released from custody. He is also working with his lawyers to defend himself at trial and clear his name. The Government case relies on testimony of crooks who were caught and now are pointing a finger at Mr. Esformes as a means to obtain lesser sentences. We hope to demonstrate at trial that Mr. Esformes was unwittingly taken advantage of by people he trusted and not a part of their crimes.”