Former Fulton, Sweet Springs hospital executive indicted for $1.4 billion in fraud

1 month 2 weeks 1 day ago Tuesday, June 30 2020 Jun 30, 2020 Tuesday, June 30, 2020 7:17:00 PM CDT June 30, 2020 in News
By: Cory Johnson, KOMU 8 Digital Producer

COLUMBIA - A former Miami-based health care executive who managed hospitals in Fulton and Sweet Springs faces 23 federal counts, including health care fraud and money laundering.

Jorge Perez was the CEO of EmpowerHMS, which managed the Fulton Medical Center and I-70 Community Hospital in Sweet Springs.

"We have something that we call our secret sauce and basically that's nothing more than thinking outside the box and understanding what the community needs and talking with the physicians of the hospital," Perez said when Empower took over the hospital in 2017.

As for that secret sauce, the indictment alleges Perez and nine others used hospitals as "billing shells" to submit $1.4 billion in fraudulent claims for laboratory testing.

Prosecutors say Perez's company would take over rural hospitals in financial trouble and bill private insurance companies for blood tests done at facilities where they also controlled the billing and could charge substantially more than a third-party lab.

Investigators found many of the tests weren't medically necessary. The company allegedly paid kickbacks to recruiters and health care providers in connection with the testing.

“This was allegedly a massive, multi-state scheme to use small, rural hospitals as a hub for millions of dollars in fraudulent billings of private insurers,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski.

Perez and a second defendant collected $46 million from the scheme that went, in part, towards eight vehicles, including a 2017 Range Rover, Ferrari, and Mercedes-Benz while many hospitals fell deep into debt, according to the indictment.

The I-70 Community Hospital in Sweet Springs closed in February 2019 after insurance providers refused to pay for procedures there.

KOMU found in November the time an ambulance takes from picking up a patient to being back in service has doubled to nearly two hours since the closure.

Saline County Health Department Administrator Tara Brewer told Kaiser Health News she was surprised by the indictment after hearing no updates for over a year. While it brings closure to the community, she said the charges do not reopen the hospital in the county that has the highest per capita COVID-19 rates in Missouri.

“What he did to us will linger on for a long time,” Brewer said.

The Fulton Medical Center was bought by a new management system in December and saved from closure. They owed the IRS $3 million at the time of the sale, in addition to $500,000 in settlements to contractors, $4.3 million dollar mortgage, and a $1.5 million line of credit.

Fulton's hospital was one of the few to be turned-around after Empower's management. A healthcare watchdog report attributes half of the 2019 U.S. hospital bankruptcies to the company.

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA- Volunteers worked to make 50,000 renewal kits for students, faculty, and staff. The kit is designed to curb... More >>
11 hours ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 9:40:00 PM CDT August 14, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY — JC Schools held a virtual session, Friday, to answer questions from parents and staff regarding the fall... More >>
13 hours ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 7:28:00 PM CDT August 14, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA – The Boone County Commission released a letter on Friday, defending decisions made concerning CARES Act funding. On... More >>
16 hours ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 4:53:00 PM CDT August 14, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Some ballots requested near the state's deadline may not be returned by mail in time to be... More >>
17 hours ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 3:38:58 PM CDT August 14, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA — This school year, some parents are responsible for juggling jobs and helping teach their children outside the... More >>
17 hours ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 3:28:00 PM CDT August 14, 2020 in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Police have identified a man who was found shot to death in a grassy lot in... More >>
18 hours ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 2:12:00 PM CDT August 14, 2020 in News
(CNN) -- Police have charged a 25-year-old man with first-degree murder after they say he shot and killed a 5-year-old... More >>
18 hours ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 2:02:01 PM CDT August 14, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA — Missouri prosecutors on Wednesday came out against Republican Gov. Mike Parson's proposal to give the state attorney... More >>
21 hours ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 11:15:49 AM CDT August 14, 2020 in News
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is making clear why he opposes extra money for the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service.... More >>
21 hours ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 11:12:01 AM CDT August 14, 2020 in News
( Missourian ) - Want to support Columbia businesses that are struggling through the pandemic and not leave your... More >>
22 hours ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 10:48:00 AM CDT August 14, 2020 in News
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Police in southwestern Missouri are investigating the shooting death of a man in Springfield. Police said... More >>
22 hours ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 10:41:41 AM CDT August 14, 2020 in News
ST. LOUIS — The newest Major League Soccer team will be called St. Louis City SC when it debuts... More >>
22 hours ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 10:23:53 AM CDT August 14, 2020 in News
As COVID-19 continues to spread, KOMU 8 will continue to update you about impacts in the community. You can... More >>
22 hours ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 10:01:00 AM CDT August 14, 2020 in News
(CNN) -- Boris Johnson's latest strategy to fight coronavirus aims to make Britain healthier -- but campaigners are worried about... More >>
1 day ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 8:05:05 AM CDT August 14, 2020 in A Brighter Tomorrow
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man has been charged in the shooting death of a 4-year-old Kansas City, Missouri,... More >>
1 day ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 Friday, August 14, 2020 6:09:31 AM CDT August 14, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Forum Boulevard closed throughout the night for construction workers to build storm sewer drainage between Green Meadows Road... More >>
1 day ago Thursday, August 13 2020 Aug 13, 2020 Thursday, August 13, 2020 7:44:00 PM CDT August 13, 2020 in Continuous News
COLUMBIA - Columbia’s City Council discussed homelessness Thursday during their budget work session. Ward 1 Council Member, Pat Fowler,... More >>
1 day ago Thursday, August 13 2020 Aug 13, 2020 Thursday, August 13, 2020 7:16:00 PM CDT August 13, 2020 in News
(AP) - The NCAA will not conduct fall championship events - a move that does not effect major college football... More >>
1 day ago Thursday, August 13 2020 Aug 13, 2020 Thursday, August 13, 2020 6:10:00 PM CDT August 13, 2020 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 71°
9am 75°
10am 78°
11am 80°
12pm 83°