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As we recognize the contributions of African-Americans during Black History Month, I want to take a moment to reflect on two outstanding Federal law enforcement leaders: Omar Perez Aybar and Reginald J. France of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General.

Omar and Reginald are members of the interagency Miami HEAT Team that won the 2014 Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Service to America medals. 

The team conducted hundreds of Medicare fraud investigations in South Florida, which is a ready target for Medicare fraud because of the region’s many retirees. The team members had their work cut out for them. And they knew their work was important, not only because fraudulent claims are inherently bad for the system, but also because each instance of fraud hurts the people who rely on Medicare for life-saving care. 

Their investigations were incredibly successful. The HEAT force in Florida used cutting-edge, data-driven investigative techniques combined with a greater focus on interagency collaboration. The team brought together the expertise of the Office of Inspector General, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorneys Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and importantly, local law enforcement. They were able to tap into each other’s resources to create a much more effective single investigative force. Their work led to a record-setting 685 convictions and the return of almost $1 billion to the Medicare Trust Fund.

And, it provided other investigators around the country with a successful model for combating Medicare fraud. Eventually, 12 teams, like the one in Miami led by Omar and Reginald, coordinated criminal investigations that uncovered hundreds of fraudulent Medicare schemes by durable medical equipment suppliers, home health agencies, physicians, and rehabilitation facilities.

I am proud to count Reginald and Omar among the ranks of Federal employees. They are just two of the legions of African American Federal employees we should honor this month and in months to come. Their work is a true personification of the purpose-driven mission of Federal service.

 

2014 Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Medal Recipients—The Miami HEAT Teams from Partnership for Public Service on Vimeo.


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