Physician reaches plea deal in $60M fraud scheme that allegedly involved accelerating patient deaths

A physician at Novus, a shuttered hospice provider in Frisco, Texas, has reached a plea deal for his role in a $60 million fraud scheme that federal prosecutors say involved fatally overdosing patients for profit, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Charles Raymond Leach, MD, is slated to plead guilty Sept. 11 to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. He joined Novus in 2014 and became medical director before the company shut down several years ago. He was one of 16 defendants charged in the healthcare fraud scheme in February 2017.

As part of his plea agreement, Dr. Leach, who surrendered his medical license in January, said he falsified documents and pre-signed blank prescription forms in bulk as part of the scheme. The pre-signed prescription forms were filled in by other people and used to obtain controlled substances, including morphine and hydromorphone. Novus nurses then allegedly used high doses of those drugs to hasten patients' deaths, according to The Dallas Morning News, which cited court documents.

According to court documents, Novus' owner and CEO, Bradley Harris, and others allegedly enrolled as many people as possible in hospice care, even patients who were not eligible for the services. Once the patients were enrolled, they were given around-the-clock care, which Medicare reimbursed at a higher rate than routine care. If hospice patients were in continuous care for too long, Novus workers allegedly overmedicated them so they would die.

Dr. Leach is the fourth defendant to reach a plea deal in the case. Twelve other people under indictment in the case are tentatively set for trial in January, according to the report.

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