Sacra­mento nurse guilty in $31M Medi­care scheme

Lodi News-Sentinel - - PAGE TWO - By Sam Stan­ton

A nurs­ing care co­or­di­na­tor at Sacra­mento’s Mercy Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal pleaded guilty Thurs­day in a sprawl­ing Medi­care kick­back scheme and is now co­op­er­at­ing with fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

John Eby, 46, pleaded guilty in fed­eral court in Sacra­mento to two counts charg­ing him with re­ceiv­ing kick­backs in a scheme that in­ves­ti­ga­tors say in­volved more than 8,000 claims made to Medi­care that cost the pro­gram $31 mil­lion.

Eby’s plea agree­ment calls for him to co­op­er­ate with in­ves­ti­ga­tors prob­ing the case, and his at­tor­ney, Wil­liam Por­tanova, said he al­ready has been.

“It’s just said to see young peo­ple give into the temp­ta­tion of kick­backs,” Por­tanova said af­ter court. “They seem harm­less at the time, but in­sti­tu­tion­ally they add up to tens of mil­lions, if not hun­dreds of mil­lions, of dol­lars of tax­payer money.

“It’s just so sad to see young peo­ple get pulled in at such a low level.”

Eby, who could face up to 10 years in prison, was ac­cused of steer­ing pa­tients who were be­ing dis­charged to spe­cific hospice or home health care providers in ex­change for kick­backs.

The charges against Eby, which were filed last month, do not name Mercy Gen­eral, re­fer­ring only to “Hos­pi­tal 1” in court doc­u­ments. Dig­nity Health, which runs Mercy Gen­eral, did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Medi­care, a fed­eral health care pro­gram for cit­i­zens 65 and older and other in­di­vid­u­als with se­lect dis­abil­i­ties, also has de­clined to com­ment on pend­ing le­gal mat­ters.

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