Doctor pleads guilty to fraud scheme with homeless ‘patients’
A doctor who conducted unnecessary procedures on mostly homeless patients and billed Medicare and Medi-Cal pleaded guilty Thursday to filing a false tax return and participating in the $1.55-million scheme, authorities said.
From 2008 to 2012, Dr. Ovid Mercene, 61, admitted patients, most of them homeless, to a Los Angeles-area hospital for treatment they did not need with the purpose of defrauding taxpayer-funded health programs, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The name of the hospital was not released because the investigation is ongoing, authorities said.
Mercene ultimately billed Medicare and Medi-Cal more than $1.8 million for medically unnecessary services. He was paid $850,000 and also received $700,000 in cash for referring these patients into skilled nursing homes, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s office. He did not report the income on his tax returns, officials said.
Mercene knew that many of the patients were transported from downtown L.A.’s skid row and not from a purported “care consortium,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
He admitted the patients onto a floor away from other hospital patients and gave some of them smoking breaks even though they suffered from respiratory diseases, the U.S. District Attorney’s office said.
During their hospital stays, Mercene would administer numerous unnecessary tests and discharge the patients to nursing facilities even though they did not require that kind of care.
Mercene’s case was the first of an ongoing investigation by several state and federal departments, including the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service.
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