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Cancer Center Fraudster Pays $5.7M To End FCA Suit

Law360, Washington (August 18, 2014, 5:36 PM ET) — The former owner of a chemotherapy clinic sentenced to two decades in prison for defrauding Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers will pay $5.7 million to end a related whistleblower False Claims Act suit in Mississippi federal court, counsel for the relator announced Monday.

Meera Sachdeva, a doctor and the former owner of the Rose Cancer Center in Summit, Mississippi, will pay the $5.7 million out of the more than $8.4 million in fines and restitution she had earlier agreed to pay in her related criminal case, according to an announcement from Constantine Cannon LLP, one of the firms representing relator Kristi Beeson.

Marlene Koury, a member of the firm’s whistleblower practice, said in a statement Monday that Beeson’s role in the case had demonstrated the “critical” role whistleblowers play in helping root out health care fraud, praising her for coming forward with her complaint.

“But for the courage of Ms. Beeson stepping forward, this outrageous conduct likely would have gone on for years, with Dr. Sachdeva taking advantage of people during the most vulnerable time of their lives,” Koury said.

Beeson, a former laboratory technician at the cancer center, had filed her complaint after witnessing a number of fraudulent practices at the clinic that were charged to government and private payers, including unqualified staff performing bone marrow biopsies, the use of single doses of drugs for multiple patients, and the falsification of patient records to charge for services that were not performed at all, according to the announcement.

After this misconduct was brought to the attention of the federal government, it launched a criminal probe, raided the clinic and eventually shut it down, charging Sachdeva, Rose office manager Brittany McCoskey and outside medical biller Monica Weeks — accused of helping to cover up claims due for an audit — with health care fraud in September 2011.

In the criminal case, which also saw Sachdeva charged with money laundering, prosecutors claimed that the clinic had billed payers for reimbursement of higher quantities of drugs than it had actually purchased, as well as reusing syringes and drawing multiple patients’ chemotherapy drugs from the same bag, meaning they did not receive the full dosage they should have, among other allegations. Medicare and Medicaid were billed for more than $15.1 million by the clinic across the relevant period, according to the indictment.

All three defendants pled guilty after reaching plea agreements in 2012, with Sachdeva receiving a total of 240 months in prison and being ordered to pay $8.4 million in fines. Weeks received three years’ probation and was ordered to pay nearly $22,000, while McCoskey received 13 months in prison and a $55,000 restitution order.

Beeson said in a statement Monday that she was pleased to see Sachdeva receive a prison sentence for her “harmful acts,” saying that the patients who had been mistreated by the doctor are now “receiving the correct medical treatment they deserve.”

For bringing her qui tam suit — unsealed last week with the resolution of the case, according to her counsel, although the case is still unable to be publicly accessed as of Monday afternoon — she will share with three other whistleblowers about $500,000 in proceeds from the forfeiture, with additional proceeds to go both to the government and private insurers, according to the announcement.

Beeson is represented by Patrick M. Barrett III of Barrett Law Office PLLC, by Marlene Koury of Constantine Cannon LLP and by Jonathan Barrett.

Counsel information for the government, Sachdeva and the other three whistleblowers wasn’t immediately available.

The criminal case is U.S. v. Sachdeva, case number 3:11-cr-00068, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. The civil case is in the same court, with further details not yet available Monday.



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