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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Miami Beach businessman who is on trial for masterminding the largest Medicare fraud in U.S. history, also had contact with the mastermind of the largest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted.
Philip Esformes is involved in a $1 billion Medicare fraud trial in Miami, reportedly filing false claims worth millions of dollars.
Federal authorities allege that during a short portion of the time Esformes was shuffling patients among his nursing homes and assisted living centers to carry out the fraud, he was also texting with a man named William “Rick” Singer about Esformes’ son getting into college.
Singer is the California man accused of raking in millions of dollars by helping the rich and famous, like actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, cheat the college acceptance system to get their kids into prestigious schools. Investigators say the scheme involved having someone take entrance exams for the applicants or portraying the applicants as athletes when they weren’t.
In the text messages released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Esformes case in Miami, Esformes and Singer communicated in late 2013 and early 2014.
Esformes asked at one point — “What is the date of test in Arizona ??”
Singer replied, “March 9.”
Text messages also show the men spoke about the score Esformes’ son posted on a test. “I think total was 2000,” Esformes wrote.
Singer replied, “Very good for starter,” before indicating that he needed a higher score for certain schools. Singer also told Esformes that a test score of 700 for athlete would suffice.
The text messages don’t reveal specific details of money changing hands between Esformes and Singer or allegations of cheating.
Jay Weaver is a reporter for the Miami Herald. He has covered the Esformes case for years.
“We don’t know how (the exchange) ends because the text messages that were filed in the Medicare case here in Miami end there,” Weaver said. “We don’t know any more about their interaction.”
But Philip Esformes is accused of being involved in another college cheating scandal. Federal agents say Esformes paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to former University of Pennsylvania basketball coach Jerome Allen.
Court records show Allen pleaded guilty and testified against Esformes. Allen admitted that Esformes paid him to lie to the university about Esformes’ son being a basketball recruit.
Weaver believes Esformes reached out to Singer as a backup plan.
“Knowing Philip Esformes, he was covering his bases,” Weaver said. “Thinking if Jerome Allen ultimately doesn’t follow through and get my son accepted for the class of 2015 entering that freshman year, I’m gonna cover my bases and I’m going to talk to Rick Singer who’s known to have this consulting business and this test prep business.”
Esformes is currently on trial in Miami on the federal fraud charges. If convicted of the charges he faces decades in prison.
He is not indicted in the college cheating scandal out of Boston.