Texas hospice, physician lied that patients were terminal in $154M scam

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A federal jury found a physician and two healthcare executives guilty of a $154 million healthcare fraud scheme in which they falsely told patients with long-term incurable diseases that they only had months to live in an effort to boost hospice profits, the U.S. Justice Department said

Defendants Rodney Mesquias, Henry McInnis and Francisco Pena, MD, were all convicted. Mr. Mesquinas owned Merida Group, which operated dozens of hospices in Texas. Mr. McInnis was CEO of the hospice provider, and Dr. Pena was the medical director.

Merida Group enrolled patients with long-term incurable diseases at group homes, nursing homes and hospitals by falsely telling them they had six months to live, prosecutors charged. The hospice operator also sent chaplains to lie to patients and discuss their imminent death,  the lawsuit claimed.

But according to evidence presented at trial, the patients were not terminally ill, a requirement to qualify for hospice services. In some instances they were walking, driving, working and even coaching athletic events.

Merida Group kept patients on hospice services in an effort to boost revenue, prosecutors said, and the operator was fraudulently reimbursed $154 million.

After a three-week trial, the jury found Mr. Mesquias, Mr. McInnis and Dr. Pena guilty of multiple counts of healthcare fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. 

Sentencing is scheduled for June 17, 2020.

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