A former doctor from La Mirada who conducted unnecessary procedures on mostly homeless patients and billed Medicare and Medi- Cal was sentenced Monday to 15 months behind bars for carrying out the $1.4 million scheme and filing a false tax return.
Ovid Mercene must serve a year under supervised release after he gets out of prison. He was also ordered by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner to pay restitution of $1.4 million, to be divided between Medicare, Medi-Cal and the Internal Revenue Service, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
From 2008 to 2012, Mercene 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.
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 those patients into skilled nursing homes.
He pleaded guilty in December 2013 to filing a false tax return in connection with the scheme.
Mercene admitted the patients to the hospital where he worked after watching them being transported by van from skid row to the facility, where they were often kept on a special floor away from “regular” patients, according to court papers.
The homeless patients also were given smoking breaks while in the hospital, even though many of them supposedly suffered from respiratory diseases. After a short hospital stay typically involving numerous unnecessary tests, Mercene discharged them to skilled nursing facilities, even though they did not require such care, prosecutors said.
—City News Service
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: