His confinement in the Miami Federal Detention Center marks a new challenge for a business family that has withstood two decades of Justice Department probes and Tribune investigations into allegations of patient abuse, corruption and substandard conditions at their Illinois, Florida and Missouri nursing home facilities.
From their Lincolnwood offices, Esformes and his father and business partner, Morris Esformes, took in millions of dollars annually from federal programs for the sick and disabled.
Both have cultivated reputations as prominent philanthropists. Morris Esformes has an endowed medical professorship named for him at the University of Chicago, and they have given millions of dollars to synagogues, schools and medical facilities in the United States and Israel.
The new federal indictment alleges that Philip Esformes and a handful of Miami co-conspirators bilked Medicaid and Medicare for 14 years by cycling some 14,000 patients through various Esformes facilities, where many received unnecessary or even harmful treatments. Drug addicts were allegedly lured to the facilities with promises of narcotics, and prosecutors say some received OxyContin and fentanyl without a physician’s order to entice them to stay.
In recent court filings, prosecutors have gone beyond the allegations of the indictment to reveal new claims of patient harm and corruption.
One patient, listed as “S.J.” in court documents, told agents she was offered a bed at Esformes’ Oceanside Extended Care Center “because she was homeless and looking for a place to stay.”
“S.J. did not get or even need the skilled nursing services that were billed to Medicare on her behalf by Oceanside Extended Care,” federal authorities wrote. “Instead, the Esformes Network fed her narcotic addiction in order to use S.J. as a pawn to steal from Medicare.”
In another example, Esformes allegedly instructed a co-conspirator to “bribe a state (Florida) regulator” so Esformes could learn in advance which facilities inspectors planned to visit, and “modify and falsify files at his facilities before state regulators inspected.”
And when authorities raided one Esformes nursing facility on the day of his arrest, a resident approached the agents and said she had been “punched in the stomach when she made a complaint about the poor services rendered at the facility.”
As part of the kickbacks exchanged between Philip Esformes and corrupt medical professionals, the Justice Department alleged, “high-end escorts” were flown to Orlando and chauffeured in limousines for liaisons with Esformes at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.