LOS ANGELES >> A federal jury convicted a Pasadena doctor and an Anaheim doctor Thursday of health care fraud for collecting more than $8 million in fraudulent insurance payments and kickbacks by falsely certifying that patients were terminally ill and referring them to a Covina hospice care facility, authorities said.
Boyao Huang, 43, of Pasadena and Sri Wijegoonaratna, also known as “Dr. J,” were found guilty of taking part in the fraudulent scheme between March of 2009 and July of 2013 following a two-week trial in federal court in Los Angeles, U.S. DOJ spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
In concert with Covina-based California Hospice Care, the doctors falsely stated that patients were ill in order to bill Medical and Medi-Care for $8.8 million worth of hospice services that were not necessary, Mrozek said.
“CHC nurses performed ‘assessments’ to determine whether the beneficiaries were terminally ill and, regardless of the outcome, Wijegoonaratna and Huang certified that the beneficiaries were terminally ill — even though the vast majority of them were not dying,” according to Mrozek. “CHC personnel altered medical records in response to Medicare audits to make the beneficiaries appear sicker.”
Wijegoonaratna also took tens of thousands of dollars in illegal “kickback” payments from CHC in return for sending patients to the facility, prosecutors alleged.
Huang was convicted of four counts of health care fraud, while Wijegoonaratna was convicted of seven counts of health care fraud.
The doctors are due for sentencing August 15, officials said. Huang faces up to 40 years behind bars, and Wijegoonaratna faces up to 70 years in prison.
Four other defendants have already been charged and convicted in connection with the case, including Priscilla Villabroza, 70, of Placentia, “who purchased CHC in 2007 and operated the facility after being charged and incarcerated in another health care fraud scheme,” and her daughter, Mrozek said.
“This scheme is one of many that has victimized public health care programs and, in the end, the taxpayers who fund these important programs,” according to U.S. Attorney for California Central District Eileen M. Decker. “We will continue to investigate these fraudulent schemes, shut down the operations and incarcerate those responsible for stealing from the system.”
A Covina man who was allegedly stabbed by a Domino’s Pizza delivery man during an argument over late pizza in January is suing the restaurant chain and the driver.
Austin Reilly, 20, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Domino’s and driver Michael Charles Parker, seeking unspecified damages on allegations of negligence, battery and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Also named as plaintiffs are Reilly’s parents, Owen and Christie Reilly, who witnessed the attack on their son, the suit alleges.
A Domino’s Pizza representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
Parker delivered a pizza to Reilly’s family home in the 1600 block of North Mangrove Avenue about 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 2, Covina police Sgt. Ryan Davis said at the time.
He became involved in an argument with Reilly, who claimed the pizza was late, the sergeant said. The argument turned into a fight, during which the delivery man allegedly slashed the customer in the neck, wrist and hand with an unknown sharp object.
Paramedics took Reilly to a hospital for treatment of wounds described as significant, but not life-threatening.
Police found and arrested Parker, 31, of Glendora shortly before 1 a.m. the following morning at the restaurant on Glendora Avenue in Covina, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
Parker was released the day of his arrest after posting $30,000 bail, records show.
Charges were yet to be filed Wednesday, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Officials said. The case remained under consideration, officials said.
The lawsuit alleges that Parker used a box cutter intending to “disfigure and slay” Reilly and that his injuries were life-threatening.
Domino’s had an obligation to make occasional checks to see that its stores — including the one in Covina where Parker worked — were hiring people fit for the job of dealing with customers in their homes as opposed to in a normal restaurant setting, the suit states.
- Staff and wire report
- Photo of Michael Charles Parker, 31, of Glendora courtesy of the Covina Police Department.
COVINA >> A home burglary turned into a home-invasion robbery after two brothers interrupted two intruders inside their Covina home late Wednesday, police said.
The crime unfolded about 7:30 p.m. in the 800 block of North Citrus Avenue, Covina police Lt. Dave Foster said.
A man was asleep in his home when he was awakened by a noise in another room and went to investigate, the lieutenant said.
Two intruders confronted the man and ordered him into another bedroom, which was unoccupied, he said.
One of the robbers brandished a knife and demanded money from the man, Foster said. As the confrontation continued, the man’s adult brother arrived home and interrupted the crime.
The brother was also ordered into the bedroom and ordered to lie down, Foster said.
The robbers grabbed a jewelry box, containing about $400 worth of valuables, and fled from the home.
The victims, described as men in their late-20s and late-30s, suffered no injuries, Foster said.
Officials described the robbers as two black men, both of thin build. One was in his early-20s, stood 5 feet 11 inches tall and wore all-black clothing. The other robber was in his early-30s and wore all-dark clothing.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Covina police at 626-384-5595. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
COVINA >> A 17-year-old boy repeatedly stabbed his 24-year-old girlfriend in an attack late Tuesday, authorities said.
Police arrested the teen on suspicion of attempted murder following the stabbing, which unfolded shortly after 9 p.m. in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 700 block of East Workman Street, Covina police Sgt. Trevor Gaumer said.
The woman suffered multiple stab wounds and was flown to a trauma center by helicopter, where she was rushed into surgery, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said in a written statement.
Police first received reports of a woman in the parking lot who was bleeding from her neck, officials said.
“Officers located a 24-year-old female who was suffering from numerous stab wounds in her upper torso, neck and face,” Peterson said.
The woman remained hospitalized in “serious” condition Wednesday afternoon, Peterson said. She was described as a Covina resident.
Investigators learned the suspect in the brutal attack was still in the area, the sergeant said. Police found the teenage suspect in a condominium complex in the 600 block of E. Workman Street.
“(Officers) noticed he was bleeding from some cuts to his hands and he also made some statements regarding the stabbing, at which time he was taken into custody for attempted murder,” Peterson said.
Police took the teenage suspect, whose name was not released due to his age, to be treated for his injuries before he was booked at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, Peterson said.
He was being held without arraignment pending a scheduled arraignment Thursday in Pomona Juvenile Court, he added.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Covina police detectives at 626-384-5628. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
COVINA >> A routine traffic stop in Covina late Thursday led to the seizure of two assault weapons, as well as the arrests of an Arcadia man and Glendora woman, officials said.
Officers recovered MAC-11 and MAC-12 machine pistols after pulling a car over shortly after 8 p.m. near Vincent Avenue and Arrow Highway, Covina police Lt. Tim Doonan said.
Police also recovered a small amount of methamphetamine and arrested the driver, 26-year-old Bryan Beljak of Arcadia, and passenger Amber Blakesley, 18, of Glendora, the lieutenant said.
An officer stopped a car for a traffic violation and noticed Beljak, a convicted felon, and Blakesley both appeared to be under the influence of drugs, Doonan said.
While searching the car, police found a MAC-11 9mm machine pistol and a MAC-12 .380-caliber machine pistol, Doonan said. Both are classified as illegal assault weapons in California.
Police also seized ammunition and two high-capacity magazines from the car, he said.
Beljak was jailed on suspicion of possession of assault weapons, being a felon in possession of firearms and being under the influence of a controlled substance, Doonan said. He was not booked for DUI as the investigation continued late Thursday.
Blakesley was booked on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance.
Beljak was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, while Blakesley was expected to be released from custody with a citation, Doonan said.
PHOTO courtesy of the Covina Police Department
COVINA >> Two cousins are accused of attempted murder after a fight at a convenience store escalated into a stabbing late Friday, officials said.
Manuel Luis Melendez, 19, of West Covina and Eric Sebastian Garcia-Melendez, 21, of Pasadena, are each being held in lieu of $2 million bail pending their initial court appearances, according to Covina police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The incident unfolded about 2:10 a.m. at 7-Eleven, at Vincent Avenue and Badillo Street, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
Both suspects and the victim, a 27-year-old man, were inside the store when the victim accidentally bumped up against one of the cousins with his bicycle, the sergeant said.
An argument turned into a fight outside the store, and one of the two attackers pulled a knife and stabbed the victim in the abdomen and shoulder, Peterson said.
Paramedics took the victim to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition after undergoing surgery, he said.
As the investigation into the stabbing continued, West Covina police received a report of a possible prowler in a backyard near the 7-Eleven, but across the city border in West Covina, Petson said.
Police found Melendez and Garcia-Melendez hiding in the backyard and arrested them in connection with the stabbing, officials said.
Both suspects are scheduled to appear for arraignment hearings Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.
BOOKING PHOTOS of anuel Luis Melendez, 19, of West Covina [left] and Eric Sebastian Garcia-Melendez, 21, of Pasadena [right] courtesy of the Covina Police Department.
COVINA >> Authorities Wednesday released the identity of an elderly woman who died Friday in a fire at her home labeled “suspicious” by homicide detectives.
Helen Lambert, 89, died at the scene of the fire, which ignited about 2 p.m. at the home she shared with her grandson in the 20900 block of Mesarica Road, in an unincorporated county area near Covina, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner officials.
Her charred remains were discovered by firefighters as they extinguished the blaze, which was primarily isolated to a bedroom toward the rear of the home.
An officials cause of death was yet to be determined by coroner’s investigators, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. An autopsy has been completed, however, the cause of death has been deferred pending additional investigation.
Sheriff’s officials initially said arson was suspected in the fatal fire.
Lt. Steve Jauch of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau later described the fire as “suspicious” in nature, but declined to discuss what about the fire caught the attention of investigators. No arrests have been made.
The grandson, described by a friend as 18 years old, was not injured in the fire.
A friend of the grandson, 22-year-old Gabriel Garcia of Glendora, said he had just arrived to visit the grandson when his friend told him the house was on fire, and his grandmother was inside, Garcia said.
The two young men smashed a window or glass for at the rear of the home, but were unable to enter due to the extreme heat and thick smoke, Garcia said.
Anyone with information can reach the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
— Staff writer Ruby Gonzales contributed to this report.
COVINA >> Police jailed three gang members late Friday after finding them driving through Covina in stolen car, with two ounces of methamphetamine and a loaded handgun, officials said.
Officers were on a special patrol due to increased crime in the area when they spotted a suspicious car with no license plates driving in the 1000 block of West Cypress Street, Covina city officials said in a written statement.
The officers pulled over the car, which contained driver Ricardo Castillo, 35, of Baldwin Park, as well as passengers Mary Magalena Leos, 26, of Baldwin Park and Marco Antonio Villaneda, 35, of West Covina, according to city officials and Los Angeles County booking records. All three are documented gang members.
Police soon found the car had been reported stolen in Las Vegas, and noticed a bullet hole in the driver-side door, officials said. Castillo admitted the car had been shot in Baldwin Park last week.
Police found Villaneda in possession of two ounces of methamphetamine, and Leos had property not belonging to her.
“A loaded hand gun was also located concealed in the engine compartment of the vehicle,” according to the statement.
Castillo was booked on suspicion of auto theft, being a felon in possession of a gun and driving on a suspended license. Villaneda was booked on suspicion of auto theft, possession of a controlled substance for sales and being a felon in possession of a loaded firearm. Leos was booked for misappropriation of found property and two outstanding warrants.
According to county booking records, Castillo and Villaneda had both been released from jail Saturday afternoon pending their initial court appearances after posting $25,000 and $30,000 bail, respectively. Leos was being held without bail.
[TOP] Ricardo Castillo, 35, of Baldinn Park, Marco Villaneda, 35, of West Covina and Mary Leos, 26, of Baldwin Park.
[BELOW] Police recovered stolen car, two ounces of methamphetamine and a loaded handgun after pulling over a car containing three gang members in the 1000 block of West Cypress Street in Covina on Friday, April 8, 2016. (Courtesy)
COVINA >> A woman died in a possible arson fire in an unincorporated county area just outside of Covina Friday afternoon, officials said.
The fire was first reported at 2:01 p.m. at a house in the 20900 block of Mesarica Road, Los Angeles County Fire Department Firefighter Humberto Agurcia said.
“The first units arrived at 2:07 p.m. and reported a single-family dwelling with smoke showing from the rear,” he said. The fire was extinguished 15 minutes later.
Sheriff’s officials said firefighters entered the house, put out the fire and discovered the charred remains of an adult in a bedroom. The person was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officials initially described the victim as a woman,said the person’s gender, ethnicity and age were yet to be determined
The deadly fire was being investigated as an arson, Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau said. But officials released no information regarding why He didn’t say why arson was suspected.
The fire primarily involved a bedroom toward the rear of the house where the remains of the victim were found.
Neighbor Steve Campanella said an elderly woman lives at the home with her grandson.
He said he didn’t know his elderly neighbor well, but would sometimes see her in her front yard. The woman and her grandson moved to the neighborhood about eight years ago, neighbors said.
Gabriel Garcia, 22, of Glendora, a friend of the 18-year-old man who lives at the home with his grandmother, said he arrived to visit the grandson as the fire was starting.
The fire was not visible from the street, he said. The grandson told Garcia the house was on fire and his grandmother was inside, Garcia said.
“We went through the back. We tried breaking in,” Garcia said. “We eventually broke (a glass door), but we couldn’t go in. It was so hot.”
Garcia said he wanted to help. He said he saw no flames, only thick smoke.
“There was so much smoke, I could barely see the bed,” he said.
Garcia said the grandson arrived shortly before him.
Both fire-cause investigators and sheriff’s homicide detectives were summoned to the scene.
Investigators continued combing over the scene for evidence Friday night.
Anyone with information can reach the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTO by Watchara Phomicinda
COVINA >> Police arrested a West Covina teen Wednesday hours after he scrawled graffiti on a flagpole and newly installed parking meter dispenser outside the Covina Police Department, officials said.
The teen had gone to the Covina Police Department, 444 N. Citrus Ave., for unrelated business about 9 a.m. and decided to scrawl graffiti with a marker on the flagpole and parking machine as he left, Covina police Lt. Ric Walczak said.
After noticing the damage, police reviewed station surveillance cameras, which had captured the crime on video, he said.
Investigators identified the teen and arrested him about 9 p.m. Wednesday, the lieutenant said.
He was cited for vandalism and released to his parents pending his initial court appearance.