Doctors convicted of fraud scheme revolving around Covina hospice care facility

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.”

Facebook Twitter Reddit Tumblr Linkedin Email