Two Southern California doctors were found guilty this week of falsely certifying their patients were terminally ill as part of a larger scheme to bilk Medicare and Medi-Cal out of $8.8 million in hospice-related services, according to federal prosecutors.
Sri “Dr. J” Wijegoonaratna, 61, of Anaheim, was found guilty of seven counts of healthcare fraud while Boyao Huang, 43, of Pasadena, was found guilty of four counts of healthcare fraud after a two-week trial.
Prosecutors said the scheme involved Covina-based California Hospice Care, where employees paid so-called marketers to recruit Medicare and Medi-Cal beneficiaries. The patients were assessed by nurses to determine if they were terminally ill, according to federal prosecutors.
Prosecutors argued that regardless of the nurse assessments, Wijegoonaratna and Huang certified that the patients were dying, even though most were not. The false certifications were then used to submit bills for unnecessary hospice-related services, prosecutors said.
“In fact, only a small percentage of patients died — notwithstanding the two doctors declaring they needed hospice care,” said Eileen M. Decker, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.
The scheme was shut down in June 2013, according to prosecutors.
Wijegoonaratna and Huang will be sentenced on Aug. 15 and face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each count. Four other defendants have already pleaded guilty.
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