Hospital exec embezzled $3.2M, insurer alleges

An insurer filed a lawsuit against a former executive of what is now the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center for allegedly embezzling more than $3 million through false claims, the lawsuit states.

The Great American Insurance Co. filed the lawsuit last month against former hospital executive Richard Crabtree, Loretta Mares, her two brothers and five of their companies, according to the Associated Press. Mares is the "significant other" of former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, although Chavez said his relationship with Mares began long after the alleged fraud, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Richard Crabtree, St. Vincent's senior vice president and chief operating officer, along with others, billed and collected $3.2 million for claimed services that were never provided or grossly overestimated, according to the lawsuit, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services reports.

The lawsuit, which calls the fraud "a pervasive scheme," alleges that Crabtree and the other defendants engaged in the plot to misappropriate money from the start of his employment in 2002 until his termination in 2008. Although St. Vincent officials didn't comment on Crabtree's departure in 2008, the executive's termination coincided with St. Vincent's merger with the Christus healthcare group.

Christus St. Vincent CEO Alex Valdez said he learned of the scheme through an anonymous packet he received in January 2008.

"I don't know if one person or several persons put together this file," he said. "But I would like to thank them for having done the right thing," Valdez said.

Crabtree was fired in March 2008 "with cause."

The hospital recouped the money through its insurance carrier and didn't suffer financially, according to Valdez.

To learn more:
- read the AP article
- here's the Santa Fe New Mexican article
- read the McClatchy-Tribune article