Hialeah councilwoman charged with multimillion-dollar healthcare fraud at rehab clinic

Hialeah Councilwoman Angelica Pacheco surrendered to the FBI on Thursday after being indicted on healthcare fraud charges accusing her of falsely billing private insurers millions of dollars for services at her addiction treatment center.

She is charged with exploiting her business, Florida Life Recovery and Rehabilitation LLC, to submit $19.1 million in bogus bills for substance abuse treatment, urine test analysis and other services to multiple insurance companies including Aetna between July 2017 and August 2020, according to a grand jury indictment. That company, which stopped operating in 2022, was registered by her husband Daniel Pacheco. He has not been charged with her.

Pacheco’s husband declined to comment.

Separately, Angelica Pacheco is charged with defrauding the U.S. government for filing false business loan applications to cover payroll and other expenses at Florida Life during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the indictment. Pacheco is accused of “falsely” representing that her business was “not engaged in any illegal activity” in 2020 when she submitted the loan applications, the indictment says.

During the pandemic, four companies owned by the Pacheco family received more than $500,000 in combined federal Paycheck Protection Program and other pandemic loans. She has stated that these funds were used to pay employees and keep the businesses afloat.

Pacheco, 37, a certified nurse, and her husband now operate a primary care clinic and substance abuse rehabilitation facility called Pacheco Medical Center, located on East 49th Street in Hialeah.

The councilwoman made her first appearance on Thursday afternoon before Magistrate Judge Lauren F. Louis in Miami federal court.

The federal charges could lead to Pacheco’s removal from office. Gov. Ron DeSantis has previously suspended local elected officials charged with crimes. Under Hialeah’s city charter, the City Council would have the right to appoint someone to fill the empty seat.

This is not the first time she has had legal problems. In 2004, at the age of 17, she was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of battery, and one count of criminal mischief in what police described as a domestic incident. She pleaded no contest to four of the charges and received six months of probation.

Pacheco said to the Miami Herald that her stepfather at the time had locked her mom inside the house and she had an altercation with him. She says her stepfather abused her and her mother for years.

In 2011, Pacheco was charged again, this time in Miami-Dade County, with one felony count of child abuse without harm. She said her son told a teacher that Pacheco had spanked him. When she refused to speak to the police officer, she said, the police arrested her. She pleaded not guilty and prosecutors dropped the charge.

During this same period, from 2002 to 2012, Pacheco received dozens of traffic citations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties for alleged infractions such as knowingly driving with a suspended license, driving without insurance and speeding.

The councilwoman was elected in November 2023 after running four times for a seat on the council.

Pacheco may have hinted at her imminent arrest in a cryptic social media post.

Twenty-four hours before her arrest, Pacheco posted a video on YouTube blaming the Hialeah government for any eventual repercussions she might face.

“I want you to know that I blame the Hialeah administration for anything that happens to me,” she said in the video. “I have been threatened both legally and verbally. They are trying to find a way to get rid of me.”

In the video, Pacheco used a clip from a council meeting of a comment Mayor Esteban “Steve” Bovo Jr. made about her in a heated debate regarding the city’s position on marijuana use.

“I understand that you only have four months as a council member, but perhaps the time to honor yourself will soon come to an end,” Bovo said.

In a written statement sent from the mayor’s office to the Herald on Thursday, Bovo said that the federal charges against the councilwoman are not related nor linked to her capacity as an elected official for the city of Hialeah.

“My administration has worked hard to raise the positive image of our city,” Bovo said. “This situation is not only disconcerting but also very sad for our community. This will not stop us from improving the quality of life of our residents and providing them with the best services.”

Councilman Bryan Calvo, an ally of Pacheco, addressed the arrest “with profound disappointment,” according to a statement.

“While I am not aware of Ms. Pacheco’s private sector activities, these are grave allegations, and I will call for the full weight of the law to be applied in this case if she is proven guilty,” the councilman said.

“In the months that I have worked with Ms. Pacheco, she has been a steadfast advocate for government transparency, community engagement, and lower taxes, in those aspects she has performed honorably,” Calvo said.