Bay Area Doctors Accused of Taking Cash for Patient Referrals

(CN) – Federal prosecutors charged 30 San Francisco Bay Area health care professionals in an elaborate patients-for-cash kickback scheme revealed Thursday.

The slew of doctors, nurses and corporate home health care operators face charges of illegally influencing referrals after the largest home health care provider in the Bay Area promised a cut of the profits to doctors if they agreed to refer patients to their service.

“This is the largest cash-for-patients scheme ever charged criminally in the Northern District of California,” said U.S. Attorney David Anderson.

The architect of the stratagem, according to prosecutors, was Amity Home Health Care and its CEO Ridhima “Amanda” Singh.

Prosecutors say the CEO was caught on tape several times offering kickbacks to marketers, doctors and other marketing professionals in exchange for certification of referral for patients in search of home health care or hospice.

“The transition to a home health agency should be based on medical and personal needs – not cash payments or thinly disguised referral bribes as alleged in these cases,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven Ryan.

Ryan works for the Inspector General office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and helped coordinate the investigation with the FBI.

Along with Singh, doctors, nurses, marketers, one social worker and several other Amity employees were charged in the scheme, according to the unsealed indictment.

Advent Care Inc., a home hospice provider, is also implicated in the scheme.

According to prosecutors, Amity and some of its employees bribed doctors associated with various hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and general practitioners to send patients to Amity and Advent.

Doctors disguised the payments they received from Amity as payroll, donations or entertainment expenses. To avoid detection, Amity and Singh always paid in cash and relied on doctors to introduce others into the increasingly elaborate kickback scheme, according to prosecutors.

Illegally influencing patient referrals is a felony that carries a 10-year maximum penalty and $500,000 maximum fine if convicted. The corporations face as much as $1 million per violation if found criminally liable.

Singh is also charged with lying to investigators and witness tampering.

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