By Jason Meisner
4:53 PM CDT, October 23, 2013
The longtime owner and three other former executives of the now-closed Sacred Heart Hospital as well as four physicians have been indicted on federal charges alleging a decadelong fraud scheme involving hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks to doctors for referring patients to the hospital.
The indictment comes six months after federal authorities raided the 119-bed facility on Chicago's West Side and arrested the hospital's former chief executive, Edward Novak, and several associates.
A criminal complaint filed at that time portrayed the hospital as regularly shuttling nursing homes residents to the hospital and performing medically unnecessary and sometimes risky procedures, including tracheotomies, on patients. At least five deaths at Sacred Heart have been under investigation in connection with the scheme.
However, none of those allegations was leveled against any of the defendants in the indictment made public Wednesday, but the U.S. attorney's office hinted that aspect of the investigation continues.
According to the 17-count indictment, the hospital executives paid in excess of $350,000 in illegal kickbacks to the four physicians for referring patients covered by Medicare or Medicaid to the hospital for treatment. The kickbacks were disguised as payments for rent, teaching medical students and consulting.
Authorities alleged that bribes were also paid to the hospital's transportation staff and its marketing employees to recruit and refer patients to Sacred Heart.
The indictment charged two former hospital executives and one doctor for the first time: Anthony Puorro, 57, the hospital's former chief operating officer; Noemi Velgara, 64, a former hospital vice president who managed marketing and recruiting as well as transportation of patients; and Dr. Rajiv Kandala, 41.
Five others had previously been charged and are named in the indictment as well: Novak, 58, of Park Ridge; Roy Payawal, 64, the hospital's former executive vice president and chief financial officer; and Drs. Percy Conrad May Jr., 75, Subir Maitra, 73, and Shanin Moshiri, 58.
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