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Former hospital executive will plead guilty to paying kickbacks

Vincent Rubio, while at Tustin Hospital and Medical Center, was involved in a multimillion-dollar scheme to recruit homeless patients from skid row for treatment billed to Medicare and Medi-Cal.

February 10, 2010|By Richard Winton

A former top executive with Tustin Hospital and Medical Center has agreed to plead guilty to paying illegal kickbacks for patients recruited from L.A.'s skid row, according to papers filed Tuesday in federal court in Los Angeles.

Vincent Rubio, 49, was the hospital's chief financial officer when authorities raided the facility two years ago during an investigation into an alleged multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud Medicare and Medi-Cal. Authorities contended that the hospital recruited thousands of homeless people to undergo unnecessary medical tests and procedures.

Rubio is the fifth person charged in the scheme, which involved street-level operators and hospital executives. He faces up to 15 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors and investigators are pursuing other targets in the probe.

"Mr. Rubio is cooperating with the ongoing investigation," said Consuelo Woodhead, assistant U.S. attorney. Rubio is due in court next month

In the plea agreement, Rubio admitted helping to orchestrate payments to Estill Mitts, a skid row center operator, and another unnamed person, who recruited homeless people and transported them to Tustin Hospital. The hospital, authorities said, would then run up thousands of dollars in bills, which were paid by Medicare and Medi-Cal.

Authorities said the hospital, under Rubio's direction, paid $2.3 million to the skid row recruiters for a guarantee of 40 to 50 patients a month. The hospital netted $10.6 million from Medicare and Med-Cal because of those patients, according to court papers.

Rubio also acknowledged that he pocketed kickbacks from the recruiters and that he failed to report the money on his income tax. In 2005 alone he failed to report $38,000 in extra income.

Mitts, 65, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty in September 2008 to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 21.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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