LOS ANGELES – Boyao Huang, 43, of Pasadena, yet another medical professional convicted in the California Hospice Care(CHC) healthcare fraud scheme that bilked Medicare and Medi-Cal for $7.4 million dollars, was sentenced August 19, 2016 to four years in prison. Huang was also ordered to pay $1,344,204 in restitution.
"The California Department of Justice Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse assisted federal agents and investigators with this lengthy case," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “It is absolutely appalling that so-called healthcare professionals would put profit over patient and bilk public healthcare programs and taxpayers out of millions of dollars. I can't even imagine the emotional drain they put on some of their patients and their patients' families.”
Huang falsely certified that at least 79 Medicare and Medi-Cal patients were qualified for hospice care because they were terminally ill – when, in fact, the vast majority of them were not dying.
Following a two-week trial in May, Huang was found guilty of four counts of health care fraud for participating in the scheme at CHC. Between March 2009 and June 2013, CHC submitted approximately $8.8 million in fraudulent bills to Medicare and Medi-Cal for hospice-related services, and the public health programs paid nearly $7.4 million to CHC.
Another doctor involved in the scheme, Sri Wijegoonaratna, 61, of Anaheim, was found guilty of seven counts of health care fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on February 13, 2017.
“This scheme preyed upon dozens of patients and their families who were led to believe that their worst nightmare had come true – that they had life-ending illnesses,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Criminals such as the defendants in this case who steal from taxpayers by defrauding the Medicare system and who victimize vulnerable individuals like medical patients deserve significant prison sentences.”
In addition to the two doctors, eight other defendants were charged in the scheme and have pleaded guilty to health care fraud charges. Those other defendants include a Placentia woman who purchased CHC in 2007 and operated the facility after being charged and incarcerated in another health care fraud scheme. Priscilla Villabroza, 70, who pleaded guilty in December 2015 to one count of health care fraud, was sentenced in June to eight years in federal prison.
As part of the CHC fraud scheme, Villabroza and her daughter – who was the nominal owner while Villabroza was in custody – paid patient recruiters known as “marketers” or “cappers” to bring in Medicare and Medi-Cal beneficiaries. 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. CHC personnel altered medical records in response to Medicare audits to make the beneficiaries appear sicker.
The investigation into California Hospice was conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the California Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse; and IRS Criminal Investigation.