Manager pleads guilty in Miss. cancer clinic fraud

AP News
Posted: May 22, 2012 3:45 PM
Manager pleads guilty in Miss. cancer clinic fraud

An ex-office manager has pleaded guilty in what prosecutors say was a multimillion dollar health care fraud in which a cancer clinic gave patients diluted chemotherapy drugs and used old syringes on multiple people.

Dr. Meera Sachdeva, Brittany McCoskey and Monica Weeks were indicted last August on charges including conspiracy and witness tampering related to the activities of Rose Cancer Center in Summit.

Filings in U.S. District Court in Jackson show that McCoskey pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of giving false statements related to health care matters. The charge is related to billings to Medicaid and Medicare that claim a physician was present during certain procedures.

Sachdeva established the clinic in south Mississippi in 2005. Authorities say workers watered down drugs and billed Medicaid, Medicare and insurance companies for more chemotherapy drugs than patients received. The clinic billed Medicaid and Medicare for about $15.1 million during the alleged scheme.

The Mississippi Health Department closed the clinic last year because of "unsafe infection control practices" after 11 patients were hospitalized with the same bacterial infection. The scare led officials to test nearly 300 cancer patients for infections such as HIV. The department has said none of the patients tested had blood-borne viral infections related to the clinic's care.

However, a civil lawsuit claims at least one patient died about the time the clinic was shut down from HIV he contracted there.

McCoskey's sentencing is set for Aug. 6. Her lawyer, George Lucas, had no comment on Tuesday.

The other defendants have pleaded not guilty and await trial.

Sachdeva has been held without bond since August because authorities consider her a flight risk. She is a naturalized U.S. citizen from India. Prosecutors said she often traveled overseas and has considerable assets, including bank accounts, in her native country, despite the seizure of about $6 million.

Weeks is free on bond. Prosecutors say she did billing for the clinic.

Their trial had been set for May 2, but was postponed. No new trial date has been entered in court records.