the FOURTH batch of graduates of the FACC (Filipino American Council of Chicago) Home Care Giver show their certificates of completion after the April 17 rites at Rizal Center. Coordinating the program are (front 5th to to 9th) FACC President Dr. Rufino Crisostomo and Philippine Consulate Commissioner Anita Saldo, Carmen Estacio, Dr. Alfredo Barranco and Norberto Luna joined the multi-ethnic class in a sourvenir photo. Ext class will start on June 4, Saturday at 11 am. Call Dr. Crisostomo at 312-402-4191 for details.
By Grace Garcia
CHICAGO—This year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month takes on added significance with the announcement that two Filipinas will dance their way to the coveted role of “Cinderella” in The Joffrey Ballet’s production at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, May 11-22, 2016.
Joffrey Ballet Company members Christine Rocas and Jeraldine Mendoza will alternately perform the lead role in Sir Frederick Ashton’s full-length ballet version of the classic fairy tale with a score by Sergei Prokofiev performed live by the Chicago Philharmonic. Although ballet remains a high brow cultural fare for a minority back home, Rocas and Mendoza were able to follow their passion and emerge as top ballet dancers in the world.
Christine Rocas dances the lead role of the CHICAGO-BASED Joffrey Ballet Company’s production of Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Cinderella.” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)
Based in Chicago, The Joffrey Ballet is one of the top ballet companies in the world and celebrates its 60th anniversary this season. Rocas, a Company member since 2005, will reprise her role of Cinderella which she last performed with the Joffrey in 2010. Among the roles she has performed since joining the company are Juliet (Romeo and Juliet), Giselle (Giselle), and Sugar Plum Fairy (The Nutcracker).
A former rhythmic gymnast for the Philippine national team, Rocas decided to pursue ballet seriously when she received a scholarship to dance at Ballet Manila in the Philippines. Her mom is a native of Cagayan and her father is a native of Batangas. They now reside in Las Pinas.
"I made my way up the career ladder," said Rocas, who competed in numerous international ballet competitions and was the recipient of several awards including a silver medal at the New York International Ballet Competition and the Arpino Award given by The Joffrey Ballet for a one-year contract.
Rocas has put in many hours of rehearsal to prepare for the iconic role of Cinderella. In addition to dancing the lead role, Rocas will perform Fairy Summer and Fairy Winter in the Joffrey’s spring production. Rocas has been in rehearsals for Cinderella five days a week, six hours a day.
Movies about ballet have abounded in the media in the past decade such as Center Stage (2000,), Billy Elliot (2000) and The Black Swan (2010). For those who think that ballet is not mainstream anymore, Rocas disagrees. "There is a big surge in popularity [of ballet] in pop media culture,” added Rocas. “Classical arts remain relevant and will continue to be relevant for future generations. Art will continue to touch people's lives."
(Dancers Temur Suluashvili and Christine Rocas PERFORM AS THE PRINCE AND CINDERELLA. Photo by Herbert Migdoll)
Jeraldine Mendoza, a first generation Filipina American, will also perform the role of Cinderella and Fairy Winter in The Joffrey Ballet’s production this spring. A Company member with the Joffrey since 2011, Mendoza grew up with her two siblings and parents in San Francisco. Her parents are both natives of Batangas and immigrated to America in their 20’s. “Chicago is such a great city but San Francisco will always have my heart,” added Mendoza. Growing up her parents always supported her. She received a full merit scholarship right after high school graduation to the School of American Ballet's Summer Session at the age of 17. However, she admits that her parents intended that she go to college after high school. "They didn't understand the seriousness of ballet," she added.
Mendoza trained at the City Ballet School of San Francisco starting at age of five before accepting an invitation to train at the famed Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow (now known as Moscow State Academy of Choreography). She noted that Russian students would train separately from the foreigners. Ultimately, Jeraldine was asked to train in the Russian class. "Ballet in Russia is very serious,” she added.
Jeraldine was one of the first two female American students to graduate at the top of her class from the Academy. From 2012-2013 she was awarded a Leonore Annenberg Fellowship fund which she used to travel the world and watch other ballets performances.
Just like Rocas, Mendoza trained in the Vaganova method, a Russian technique. Since Cinderella was originally choreographed for The Royal Ballet in London by Sir Frederick Ashton, her role required she adapt to the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) English Technique. "The technique is very detailed," she explained. Learning to incorporate different styles of ballet into her technique is something she has to do. "It's my job to be a chameleon," she added. However, Cinderella was challenging to learn. "It's hard to tackle the music of Cinderella. It's a challenge for me but that's what I love about it,” added Mendoza. “My favorite part of Cinderella is the Kitchen scene because there’s a lot of freedom in how you interpret the role.”
Adobo and Longanisa
So what do ballerinas like Rocas and Mendoza do when they are not rehearsing or performing ballet? "I do a lot of physical activity for my job," Rocas explains. On her off days, she takes advantage of her free time to rest. She reads, crochets and cooks. "I love to cook Filipino food,” added Rocas. “I cook adobo, --I have vinegar and soy sauce in my pantry." Rocas says she likes to prepare food that is easy to make. She also likes caldereta and chicken tinola. When Mendoza is not dancing, she likes fashion, reading and taking care of her Boston terrier.
To purchase tickets for the May 11-22 performances, visit www.joffrey.org/cinderella
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Gumila, an Illinois registered nurse since 1991, was the manager of “Doctors at Home” and was indicted on August 2014 along with Alan Newman, a physician from Chicago, and James Ademiju, a nurse from Matteson,Il., who had been previously convicted on charges stemming from the probe, federal authorities said.
Prosecutors led by Stephen Chan Lee told the court that Gumila led a scheme to defraud Medicare by falsely certifying patients as being confined to their homes and requiring home health services; falsely increasing, or “upcoding,” claims for services; over-scheduling and double-billing patient visits, submitting false claims for providing extensive oversight of patients’ home health services, and billing for tests that were not medically necessary.
According to 2014 original 69-page affidavit in support of the arrest, search and seizure warrants, Doctor At Home sent physicians and physician’s assistants, who were accompanied and driven by a medical assistant, to visit patients in their homes.
Doctor At Home got many of its patients from home health agencies, which refer patients to Doctor At Home so that a physician would sign a form ordering the home health agency to provide nursing services to the patient.
According to Medicare claims data, from 2013 through May 2014, more than 300 home health agencies had submitted Medicare claims stating that they were ordered by just four Doctor At Home physicians to provide home health services to approximately 4,000 patients. Those home health agencies were paid more than $20 million as a result of their claims.
Government lawyers also said that most of Doctor At Home’s visits were billed to Medicare as if they were complicated, with the average payment for most visits approximately $120. As a result of double-billing, over-billing, and certifying patients for home health services who were not confined to the home, Doctor At Home assisted home health agencies in falsely billing Medicare, allegedly causing Medicare to pay more than $1,250 a month for basic maintenance of many patients who do not need such services.
In 2014 before charges were filed, federal agents had interviewed one current and seven former employees of Doctor at Home, including a physician’s assistant who contacted law enforcement in January 2014.
Investigators had also reviewed an audio recording provided by a former Doctor At Home physician of an October 2013 meeting she had with Gumila, as well as e-mails and documents, claims data, and patient files, and have conducted interviews with patients of Doctor At Home and their primary care physicians whose statements contradict Doctor At Home’s billing and patient records.
In the recorded meeting, the doctor who began working for Doctor At Home only a few weeks earlier in 2014, told Gumila that several patients did not qualify for certain services. Gumila responded by telling the doctor that she was an “artist” who should “paint the picture” of each patient in a way that Medicare would accept, the jury was told.
Gumila overruled at least one physician and manipulated the certification of many patients as being confined to the home and requiring home health services. In doing so, she assisted home health agencies in billing Medicare for ineligible patients and medical services in exchange for Doctor At Home receiving patient referrals from the home health agencies.
As part of the scheme, Doctor At Home scheduled patient visits on a monthly basis rather than based on patient need and billed Medicare as if the visits were complicated when they were actually routine and short in duration.
Doctor At Home also frequently double-billed the same visit as a “patient visit” and also as a “wellness visit.” Doctor At Home also claimed that physicians and physician’s assistants provided extensive oversight of patients’ home health services when, in fact, employees in the Philippines prepared those oversight claims in part by counting routine visits toward oversight.
Doctor At Home billed Medicare for thousands of eye-movement tests that some providers believe were medically unnecessary, and it has referred thousands of echocardiograms and ultrasound tests to Xpress Mobile Imaging, which has several business ties to Doctor At Home.
The investigation was conducted by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which is part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative between the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Scores of defendants have been charged locally in health care fraud cases since the strike force began operating in Chicago.
To report health care fraud to learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to:www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
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An excerpt from the April 11 report of the Chicago Tribune is revealing:
“The young Lincolnwood couple seemed to have it all: a 5,000-square-foot McMansion, a small fleet of luxury SUVs, $1 million in Facebook stock and a housekeeper and nanny who helped raise their children while they ran a thriving home health care business called "Patients First."
“But Richard and Maribel Tinimbang's success was built on a lie, according to a federal indictment filed last week that said the Tinimbangs put themselves first, not their patients.
“Federal authorities say the couple's "nanny" was in fact little more than an indentured servant — a Filipino immigrant whom they had forced to work on threat of deportation — while the couple's main business was bilking taxpayers.”
In an indictment announced April 6 by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, states that in addition to the health care fraud charges, Richard Tinimbang is accused of submitting fraudulent forms to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to allow a Filipino woman to legally work in the United States.
Richard Tinimbang stated in the form that the woman would be hired as a business analyst at his mother’s company, Josdan Home Health Care, She was to earn $50,000 a year, thus qualifying her for an H-1B visa. But when the woman arrived in Lincolnwood, Richard and his wife put her to work full time as a nanny for their children and housekeeper for him, his wife and others, the indictment states.
The couple allegedly induced the woman to sign a servitude contract that provided for payment of $66 per day – regardless of the number of hours worked – for a term of seven years. The contract further provided that if the woman quit before the seventh year, she would be required to pay $25,000 in damages.
The Tinimbangs allegedly forced the woman to surrender her passport and sign the contract, the couple threatened to send her back to the Philippines without being paid for the work she had already performed, according to the indictment.
Prior to their involvement in the health care business, Josephine and her then-husband, Danny, were known in the Chicago area as the foremost promoters of concerts featuring top entertainers from the Philippines including Martin Nievera, Gary Valenciano, Jose Marie Chan and Kuh Ledesma.
Josephine also made a fortune selling luxurious condominiums to the moneyed members of the Filipino medical community using the real estate license of her then soon to be ex-husband, Danny, who later widely complained getting the short shrift in their acrimonious divorce.
Josephine and her children were never shy in flaunting their wealth.
In her 2010 birthday bash at the Hyatt Hotel in Chicago, one of her guests recalled singer Martin Nievera being pulled out of a Las Vegas engagement to sing a few songs for the occasion. He reportedly returned to Vegas on the same night $15,000 richer.
Richard and Maribel were married in the Chicago area on December 31, 2006. To make true of his promise to his bride that they would again marry in the “longest church” in Manila, a lavish wedding ceremony took place on December 11, 2009 at the Shrine of St. Therese. Maribel wore a Carolina Herrera gown and with a hired symphony orchestra providing the music, the couple exchanged vows again.
Maribel changed gowns with a Vera Wang creation for their splashy reception at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel. Dozens of guests from the States flew in with free plane tickets compliments of the bride, groom and Josephine Tinimbang. As the indictment alleges, it could have been the U.S. taxpayers who actually footed the bill.
The lifestyle of the Tinimbangs paraphrases American novelist Scott Fitzgerald-- the rich are different from you and I. But then eventually, as in Fitzgerald’s classic novel, even “The Great Gatsby” met his sorry end.
Now Richard Tinimbang faces charges that include one count of conspiracy to defraud Medicare, one count of conspiracy to pay or receive health care kickbacks, two counts of paying kickbacks to induce referrals of Medicare beneficiaries, one count of money laundering conspiracy, one count of conspiracy to obtain forced labor, and one count of presenting false statements in an immigration document.
His wife, Maribel, is charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud Medicare, one count of money laundering conspiracy, and one count of conspiracy to obtain forced labor.
In the case of the Tinimbangs, spending time in prison is a likelihood, if convicted. They also face the forfeiture of $45 million, plus the loss of their home, business, stocks and BMW, Land Rover and Mercedes SUVs, Cadillac—among other assets.
The news of their indictment precipitated critical comments from Filipino Americans in the community. “These (frauds) must end,” commented Aquilino Javier, Jr., immediate president of the National Association of Filipino American United Methodists.
A number of home health care owners are expressing grave concerns about how the mainstream community perceives Filipino American health care providers in a negative way. “Many of us run our companies within required standard of practice.
“In fact there are some of us who earned awards for passing stringent audits of government regulators,” says a manager of another home health care company located near the Tinimbang’s now-padlocked corporate building.
The Tinimbang investigation was carried out by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which consists of agents from the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s Fraud Section. The strike force is part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative between the Justice Department and HHS to prevent fraud and enforce anti-fraud laws around the country.
U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon has made cracking down on Medicare and Medicaid fraud a priority. The Government Accountability Office last year estimated that around $60 billion, or more than 10 percent, of Medicaid payments alone are lost to fraud, waste and other improper payments each year.
The government is represented by Trial Attorney Brooke Harper of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division Fraud Section.
The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
To report healthcare fraud or to learn more about it, logon to: StopMedicareFraud.gov.
More than 25,000 people are expected to celebrate the 26th Annual Skokie Festival of Cultures on May 21 and 22, where they will savor exotic tastes, listen to the traditional sounds of ethnic music, and experience the dozens of cultures, languages and traditions that make up the Skokie community.
In addition, a one hour international short film festival will be held at 8 p.m. on Fri., May 20, the night before the festival.”
Visitors will receive their free “Passport to the World,” the official guide to all festival happenings. The passport will include a schedule of hourly ethnic performances, educational information, and a festival map. The opening ceremonies will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. on the World Showcase stage.
The 35 cultures represented at the festival will range from Armenian to Azerbaijani, German to Greek — and Tibetan to Thai.
Oakton Park is located at the corner of Oakton Street and Skokie Boulevard in Skokie, at 4701 Oakton Street. The festival will begin at 11 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday, ending at 7 p.m.
For more information about the festival, call the Skokie Park District, (847)674-1500 or visit the official Skokie Festival of Cultures Web site at www.SkokieCultureFest.org.
Gawad Kalinga Chicago Chapter joins Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen in a parade on July 4th this year as part of the city’s celebration of the 70th anniversary of Filipino- American Friendship Day.
“This is a great opportunity to show our appreciation of the friendship between our motherland, the Philippines and our adoptive country, the United States. Skokie is the city in Illinois with the most Filipino population and we expect to have a good turnout among our kababayans. We are excited to celebrate with other Filipino associations, families and friends,” says Jun de Guia, Area Coordinator of Gawad Kalinga in Chicago.
Gawad Kalinga, a non-profit organization that raises awareness and funds to help eliminate poverty in the Philippines, invite the Filipino-American community to join the parade. Details will be provided in the coming weeks and the public is advised to checkout
announcements in your favorite Filipino establishments, in social media and in this paper. For more information, please call Jun de Guia at (847) 848-2300 or Leslie Tiquia at (224) 848-9837.
The Philippine Independence Week Committee (PIWC) 2016 is conducting an Essay Writing Contest in celebration of Philippine Independence Day. The educational youth activity is open to Filipino/American high school students. Cash prizes will be awarded to the best five winners of the contest during the PIWC Gala Night on June 18 at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare (9300 Bryn Mawr Ave., Rosemont, IL.) All participating essayists will receive $20 each on the contest day.
The essay contest will be held on Saturday, May 21 from 10 am to 12 Noon at EBG Systems, 3525 W. Peterson Ave., Suite 324, Chicago, IL 60659.
To join, the contestant must be of Filipino heritage from at least one parent. They must be a current student from Junior High to 12th grade. The essay writing will be done on the spot with the use of a computer/laptop. The topic of the essay will be given prior to the contest period. Lead questions and prompts will be given to guide the contestant on what to write about. Deadline to register is May 7.
For more details about the PIWC 2016 Essay Writing Contest or to register, call Jo Wee Sit at (708) 389-7135.