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California Briefing / Los Angeles

20 arrested in healthcare fraud

July 10, 2009|Raja Abdulrahim

Twenty people were arrested Thursday in an alleged $4.6-million Medi-Cal fraud scheme that law enforcement officials claim used unlicensed individuals to provide in-home nursing care for disabled patients.

About 75 patients, many of them children with cerebral palsy or developmental disabilities, were treated by unlicensed individuals who stole identities to pose as licensed nurses, according to the United States attorney's office. None of the patients suffered life-threatening injuries.

In all, 42 defendants were named in a 41-count indictment unsealed Thursday. The remaining defendants are expected to surrender.

Medicare Plus Home Health Providers, a Santa Fe Springs-based company run by Priscilla Villabroza, hired unlicensed individuals, paying them between $8 and $12 an hour, and was reimbursed by Medi-Cal at a rate of between $20 to $35 an hour, U.S. Atty. Thomas O'Brien said. Villabroza, a registered nurse, allegedly pocketed the difference, about $4.6 million. She pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud last year and is awaiting sentencing.

-- Raja Abdulrahim

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