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

3 months 1 day 12 hours 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
JEFFERSON CITY- Governor Parson held a press briefing Wednesday for the first time since testing positive for COVID-19. Parson... More >>
19 hours ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 7:32:00 PM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA- The Columbia Police Department concluded their part of the investigation in regard to the Mengqi Ji case, a Columbia... More >>
20 hours ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 6:22:00 PM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Tuesday's Presidential debate was different than years past and not just because there was no crowd in... More >>
21 hours ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 5:49:00 PM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
(CNN) - The Senate on Wednesday approved a stopgap spending bill in order to avert a government shutdown just hours... More >>
21 hours ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 5:47:04 PM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia/Boone County Health Department released guidelines for trick or treating on Halloween. There are numerous activities... More >>
21 hours ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 5:47:00 PM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA- Missouri Head Football Coach Eliah Drinkwitz drew attention on Wednesday when he spoke up about the SEC's lack of... More >>
23 hours ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 3:33:00 PM CDT September 30, 2020 in Sports
MIDWAY - A string of burglaries and larcenies have impacted more than a dozen properties around the Midway area. ... More >>
23 hours ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 3:16:00 PM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
MARSHALL- Marshall Public Schools went remote Wednesday, after Superintendent Dr. Carol Maher met with her team and decided COVID-19 numbers... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 1:42:00 PM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
NASHVILLE (AP) — The NFL says the Pittsburgh-Tennessee game originally scheduled for Sunday will be played either Monday or Tuesday... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 12:26:34 PM CDT September 30, 2020 in Sports
(CNN) -- After a five-month battle with leukemia, the first known person to be cured of HIV has died of... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 11:49:00 AM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
CENTRALIA - The sweet smells of lavender and grass hang heavily over Jason Lockwood's workshop. Lockwood and his wife... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 11:30:00 AM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
SEDALIA - Pettis County Clerk Nick La Strada confirmed that at least 1,200 blank absentee ballots were reported missing Wednesday... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 9:48:00 AM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
(CNN) -- The global pandemic has stress levels running high these days. "One of the first things on everyone's... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 9:44:00 AM CDT September 30, 2020 in A Brighter Tomorrow
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy plunged at a record rate in the spring but is poised to swing to... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 8:27:48 AM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
PARIS (AP) — Saying she is “struggling to walk,” Serena Williams ended her latest bid for a 24th Grand Slam... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 8:00:39 AM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
(CNN) — The World Health Organization has announced an agreement to make rapid Covid-19 tests available to lower and middle-income... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 7:39:00 AM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
As COVID-19 continues to spread, KOMU 8 will continue to update you about impacts in the community. Previous coverage: ... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 6:16:00 AM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
Columbia College launches a virtual tutoring program Columbia College is launching a virtual tutoring program on Thursday, October 1.... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 30 2020 Sep 30, 2020 Wednesday, September 30, 2020 5:26:22 AM CDT September 30, 2020 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 62°
3pm 65°
4pm 63°
5pm 61°
6pm 59°