Breathe a Little Easier     

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The global effort to help fight COVID-19 spurred the development of human ingenuity and compassion for people who were critically ill. Scientists, companies, and even ordinary people contributed in different ways by making medical ventilators as quickly as possible to treat patients around the world so they could breathe a little easier.

But two men from Miami selfishly interrupted a plan to ship nearly 200 medical ventilators to El Salvador by stealing a loaded tractor trailer in South Florida. (Where did they think they were going to hide a tractor trailer fully of urgently needed medical equipment?)

On August 9, 2020, Yoelvis Denis Hernandez, a/k/a “Guajiro,” 42, and Luis Urra Montero, a/k/a “Flaco,” 25, stole the trailer that was headed to Miami International Airport from a lot where it was parked overnight. The 192 ventilators stored inside, which were owned by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), were headed for a COVID-19 intensive care facility in El Salvador as part of the U.S. COVID-19 aid program. (I’m guessing these two were going to sell these illegally acquired ventilators for a huge price because they were in such high demand at the time.)

Both men, who were from Miami, pleaded guilty to theft of government property and were each sentenced to 41 months in prison for stealing ventilators worth approximately $3 million. Thankfully, most of the stolen ventilators were eventually recovered by federal law enforcement agents. (Let’s hope those ventilators eventually made their way to their original destination where they helped critically ill patients recover from this insidious disease.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Miami Men Sentenced to Federal Prison for Stealing Medical Ventilators Intended to Treat Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients in El Salvador,” dated February 4, 2022.

Miami, Florida – Two Miami men were each sentenced to 41 months’ imprisonment for stealing 192 medical ventilators worth approximately $3 million.  The ventilators were owned by the United States Agency for International Development (“USAID”), and were bound for a COVID-19 intensive care facility in El Salvador as part of a United States COVID-19 aid program.  The ventilators were stolen in South Florida while in transit to El Salvador.

Yoelvis Denis Hernandez, a/k/a “Guajiro,” 42, and Luis Urra Montero, a/k/a “Flaco,” 25, previously pled guilty to theft of government property.  Montero was sentenced to 41 months imprisonment this week; Hernandez was sentenced to 41 months imprisonment in December 2021.

 

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.