LA clinic owner, doctors charged in Medicare scam

AP News
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Posted: Oct 29, 2010 5:34 PM
LA clinic owner, doctors charged in Medicare scam

Two doctors led a $5 million scam in which mentally ill homeless patients were paid $100 each for unnecessary treatments that were fraudulently billed to Medicare and Medi-Cal, Los Angeles prosecutors said Friday.

Drs. Rodney Barron, 58, and Eleanor Arthur, 72, were arrested Friday and along with five others charged with misdemeanor conspiracy, fraud and taking illegal kickbacks. If convicted, they each could face up to seven years in prison. All seven are scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

It wasn't immediately known if any of the defendants had retained an attorney.

City prosecutors said homeless people were recruited and taken in a van from various parts of Los Angeles County to RSB Medical Group in the San Fernando Valley. The so-called patients were given abdominal ultrasounds and had blood drawn, regardless of their condition. In exchange, they received $100, authorities said.

Investigators also said the blood was often dripped into open jars and packaged for sale.

The clinic allegedly charged the medical programs up to $1,000 per doctor for between 30 and 50 patients daily from December 2009 and June. Prosecutors estimate the scam bilked Medicare and Medi-Cal out of $5 million.

A message left at the clinic was not immediately returned. A recording said the office has been temporarily closed.

The charges were the latest in a string of patient recruiting scams that have cropped up in Los Angeles. Earlier this month, federal prosecutors charged more than 70 people accused of having ties to Armenian mobsters and trying to defraud Medicare of $163 million for services never provided.

Neurologist Zhiwei Lin was arrested last month for prescribing pain medicine to homeless people tapped to turn the drugs over to dealers.

Dr. Masoud Bamdad was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison in July for overprescribing prescription drugs. Authorities say homeless people were recruited in San Diego and driven to Bamdad's office to get prescriptions filled in exchange for cash.