Ex-medical exec. gets prison in fraud scheme

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(CNS) – The former senior vice president of City of Angels Medical Center was sentenced today to one year in federal prison and ordered to pay $4.1 million restitution for paying illegal kickbacks for referrals of patients who were recruited in downtown Los Angeles’ skid row.

Dante Nicholson, 54, pleaded guilty in 2009 to his role in the pay-for- patients scheme that recruited transients to receive medical treatment they didn’t need, then billed Medi-Cal and Medicare millions of dollars for the care.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan J. Davis wrote in sentencing papers that Nicholson deserved the low prison term due to his “substantial assistance” in investigating the case. Three co-defendants previously pleaded guilty, including the hospital’s former chief executive officer, Rudra Sabaratnam, who was sentenced to two years behind bars.

Robert Bourseau, a former co-owner and chief executive of City of Angels, received three years and one month in federal prison. Estill Mitts, who ran a phony assessment center that directed people from downtown streets and shelters to the hospital, is scheduled to be sentenced in October.

The scheme came to light after an investigation into patient dumping on skid row. Federal prosecutors say Bourseau and Sabaratnam paid several hundred thousand dollars between 2004 and 2007 to Mitts for patients.

Nicholson, Bourseau and Sabaratnam were charged with conspiring through Intercare Health Systems — the company through which Bourseau and Sabaratnam ran the hospital — to recruit homeless people to receive unnecessary medical treatments. Intercare then billed Medicare and Medi-Cal millions of dollars for in- patient services for the transients, who were paid a small sum to be hospitalized, prosecutors said.

City of Angels is a 150-bed short-term surgical and medical facility in downtown Los Angeles.

In a related case, Vincent Rubio, the former chief financial officer at Tustin Hospital and Medical Center, will also be sentenced in October for paying illegal kickbacks to Mitts for patients recruited from skid row.

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