Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

A former doctor from Pasadena was sentenced Monday to four years behind bars for falsely certifying that Medicare patients were terminally ill, and thus qualified for hospice care, when the vast majority of them were not actually dying.

Boyao Huang, 43, was also ordered to pay a share of about $1.3 million in restitution to the federal government, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Following a two-week trial in May, Huang and another doctor were found guilty of participating in a scheme related to now-defunct Covina-based California Hospice Care.

Between March 2009 and June 2013, California Hospice submitted roughly $8.8 million in fraudulent bills to Medicare and Medi-Cal for end-of-life services, and the public health programs paid out nearly $7.4 million.

Co-defendant Sri “Dr. J” Wijegoonaratna, 61, of Anaheim, is scheduled to be sentenced in February on multiple health care fraud convictions. Eight others charged in connection with the scheme have pleaded guilty.

The ringleader, Priscilla Villabroza, 70, of Placentia, was sentenced to eight years in federal prison in June.

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero ordered her to pay more than $7 million in restitution.

Villabroza’s daughter, Sharon Patrow, 45, is expected to be sentenced in October.

Patrow and her mother paid patient recruiters known as “marketers” or “cappers” to bring Medicare and Medi-Cal beneficiaries to the Villabroza- owned hospice.

As part of the scheme, registered nurses at California Hospice performed “assessments” to determine whether the beneficiary was terminally ill and, regardless of the outcome, Huang and Wijegoonahe hospice certified that the beneficiary was dying — even though the vast majority of them were not terminally ill, prosecutors said.

Personnel at California Hospice altered medical records in response to Medicare audits to make the beneficiaries appear sicker. In the end, Medicare and Medi-Cal paid millions of dollars for medically unnecessary hospice-related services, according to the government.

–City News Service 

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