Two physicians were arrested Friday for allegedly subjecting mentally ill homeless people to unnecessary tests and other procedures at a North Hollywood clinic in order to submit fraudulent bills to government insurance programs, authorities said.
Dr. Eleanor Santiago Arthur and Dr. Rodney Stephen Barron participated in a scheme in which "cappers" recruited Medicare and Medi-Cal enrollees from as far away as Long Beach and drove them to the Victory Boulevard clinic in exchange for a fee, according to the complaint filed by Los Angeles Deputy City Atty. Carolyn Phillips.
The "patients" were subjected to abdominal ultrasounds and other procedures that were unwarranted, the complaint says. In some instances, their blood was drained into unsanitary, open containers, it says. One official said the clinics submitted the blood for tests under multiple patients' names so they could bill multiple times.
After the visits, the cappers drove the patients back to where they picked them up and paid them $100 each, according to the complaint.
The clinic billed the government for up to $1,000 worth of medical care per patient, and each physician saw 30 to 50 patients a day, city attorney's officials said in a news release. The investigation carried out by the Los Angeles County Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force found that the scheme cheated the government out of millions of dollars over six months, officials said.
Santiago Arthur and Barron each face up to seven years in prison if convicted of charges that they conspired to cheat Medicare and Medi-Cal, the government medical insurance programs for seniors, the poor and the disabled.
Barron voluntarily surrendered his U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration registration that allowed him to prescribe drugs that are commonly abused, an agency spokesman said. Santiago Arthur refused and retains the right to prescribe all medications.
The Medical Board of California is also investigating the physicians, an inquiry that could lead to revocation of their licenses. In a separate, pending action filed in July, the medical board accused Santiago Arthur of failing to properly care for patients whom she saw out of an office in Irvine.
The physicians, who were held in lieu of $500,000 bail each, could not be reached for comment.
Four clinic workers were also arrested.