More indictments in Chicago hospital fraud case

The continuing probe into kickbacks allegedly paid by the now-closed Sacred Heart Hospital in Chicago has widened with the indictment of two more hospital executives and a physician who worked at the facility, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Anthony Puorro, the hospital's former chief operating officer, and Noemi Velgara, a former hospital vice president who oversaw Sacred Heart's marketing and recruitment efforts, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago earlier this week. A physician who worked with the hospital, Rajiv Kandala, was also indicted.

Puorro and Velgara are accused of one count each of conspiracy to violate the healthcare anti-kickback statute by paying as much as $350,000 to providers to refer Medicare and Medicaid patients to the facility. Kandala was indicted on two counts of accepting kickbacks. The indictment alleged that such kickbacks were disguised as lease and consulting payments.

Earlier this year, the hospital's owner, Edward Novak, and four others were indicted for violating the anti-kickback statutes. They were also named in the most recent indictment.

Sacred Heart closed earlier in July, and is in the process of being auctioned off piecemeal, Crain's Chicago Business reported.

The investigation of Sacred Heart is part of a joint Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services effort to curtail Medicare fraud. It is the second big fraud case announced in Chicago this year.

To learn more:
- read the Chicago Tribune article
- here's the Crain's Chicago Business article
- check out the FBI press release

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