Surgeons, Hospital Owner Convicted in Massive Kickback Scheme Involving Forest Park Medical Center

Seven out of nine defendants, including four doctors, were convicted Tuesday for their roles in a $40 million bribery and kickback scheme involving Forest Park Medical Center, which illegally paid for surgeries to boost its bottom line before shutting down. Prosecutors said the surgeons agreed to refer patients to the Dallas hospital in exchange for money to market their practices. That advertising revenue helped some of the doctors grow their practices considerably. Patients were a valuable commodity, sold to the highest bidder, according to the government. The more surgeries doctors could bring to Forest Park, the more money they could earn. One of the charged surgeons, Dr. Nick Nicholson, was acquitted and quickly left the courthouse. The jury deadlocked on a charge against another defendant, Carli Hempel, who ran the hospital's bariatric program. Some of the defendants were found not guilty on some charges. The jury had to consider 19 counts. Sentencing dates have not yet been scheduled. The jury deliberated for four full days, after sitting through seven weeks of testimony. The outcome is a significant victory for the government and is expected to shake up the healthcare industry in Texas. It's the first time North Texas prosecutors have used a federal law, the Travel Act, to win bribery and kickback convictions against healthcare workers who specifically sidestepped federal insurance programs like Medicare to avoid such an outcome. The verdict could spell trouble for other doctors and hospitals with intertwined financial arrangements in Texas, providing the statute of limitations hasn't run out.   Continue reading...

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