Brius Management Co settlement11/17/17 REUTERS LEGAL 20:51:16REUTERS LEGALCopyright (c) 2017 Thomson Reuters
November 17, 2017
California nursing homes to pay up to $6.9 mln to settle kickback probe.
Nate RaymondNate Raymond; Boston(Reuters) – Four California nursing homes owned by Brius Management Co have agreed to pay up to $6.9 million to resolve claims their employees paid kickbacks for patient referrals and fraudulently billed government healthcare programs.The settlement with the facilities owned by California’s largest nursing home chain was announced on Thursday by Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra Brown in Los Angeles on Thursday and will resolve claims first made in a whistleblower lawsuit.The civil settlement resolves a probe into allegations that employees at the four nursing homes paid kickbacks to induce patient referrals from Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego to the facilities in violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.The settlement also resolved claims the nursing homes violated the U.S. False Claims Act by fraudulently submitting to Medicare and California’s Medicaid program bills for patients referred to them as a result of the kickbacks.”This settlement demonstrates our resolve to combat fraud that compromises the care provided to patients served by a government healthcare plan,” Brown said in a statement.The four nursing homes included Point Loma Convalescent Hospital, Brighton Place in San Diego, Brighton Place in Spring Valley and Amaya Springs Health Care Center in Spring Valley.Those same four nursing homes previously entered into deferred prosecution agreements with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego in 2016 to resolve claims their employees conspired to pay kickbacks without Brius Management’s knowledge.Under those agreements, the nursing homes admitted their employees from 2007 to 2013 used corporate credit cards to pay for gift cards, massages, sports tickets and yacht cruises as kickbacks to Scripps Mercy Hospital employees.Mark Johnson, a lawyer for the four Brius nursing homes at Hooper, Lundy & Bookman, did not respond to a request for comment.Thursday’s civil settlement calls for guaranteed payments of nearly $1.79 million to the United States and a $240,950 lump sum payment to California, Brown’s office said.The nursing homes also agreed to pay up to $4.9 million to the United States depending on certain operational contingencies, the office said.The deal resolves a 2011 lawsuit filed by Viki Bell-Manako, a former employee of one of the nursing homes, under the False Claims Act, which allows whistleblowers to sue companies on the government’s behalf to recover taxpayer money paid out based on fraudulent claims.The government may intervene in the cases. If successful, whistleblowers receive a percentage of the recovery. In her case, Bell-Manako will 20 percent of each settlement payment, Brown’s office said.”It took a lot of courage for her to file this claim and it’s refreshing to see justice prevail,” Ashley Davenport, a lawyer for Bell-Manako at Barrera and Associates, said in a statement.The case is U.S. ex rel. Bell-Manako v. Brius Management Co, et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 11-cv-2036.For the United States: Assistant U.S. Attorney David Barrett.For California: Deputy Attorney General Randal GlaserFor the Brius nursing homes: Mark Johnson of Hooper, Lundy & Bookman.For Bell-Manako: Ashley Davenport of Barrera and Associates