CHICAGO —(ENEWSPF)–March 9, 2016. A federal jury has convicted the director of nursing assistants at Passages Hospice for participating in a scheme to bill Medicare and Medicaid for unnecessary hospice services.
ANGELA ARMENTA, 35, of Wheeling, was convicted Tuesday night on three counts of health care fraud. Each count is punishable by up to ten years in prison.
Armenta is the seventh defendant to be convicted as part of the federal investigation into Passages Hospice LLC. The prior convictions include former co-owner SETH GILLMAN and the company itself.
Gillman, 47, of Lincolnwood, pleaded guilty last month to one count of health care fraud. In his plea agreement, Gillman admitted that Passages regularly billed Medicare and Medicaid for a high level of hospice service called “general inpatient,” even though he knew that many of these services were not medically necessary. Gillman further admitted that he implemented a bonus system to incentivize nursing directors and nursing-assistant directors, including Armenta, to place patients on general inpatient services when the patients did not need such services.
Evidence at Armenta’s seven-day trial revealed that from 2009 to 2012, Armenta was paid more than $300,000 in bonuses based on the number of patients who were placed on the higher level of services in the region Armenta and others supervised. Witnesses at her trial testified that Armenta told nurses to disregard proper training about general inpatient services.
U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin did not immediately schedule Armenta’s sentencing hearing. A status hearing was set for July 19, 2016, at 9:00 a.m., at which time her sentencing date will be set.
In addition to Armenta, Gillman, and Passages Hospice, the four other defendants convicted in the investigation are:
GWEN HILSABECK, 49, of Pontiac, Passages’ former administrator.
CARMEN VELEZ, 36, of Palatine, Passages’ former director of clinical services.
JULIE PARKER, 56, of Shorewood, Passages’ former compliance officer.
LEROY MOORE, 49, of Shorewood, Passages’ former head of marketing.
In his plea agreement, Moore admitted that he and others at Passages offered gifts to staff members of various nursing homes to induce them to refer patients to Passages. The gifts included tickets to events, electronic music players, televisions, and gift cards.
Gillman, Passages, Hilsabeck, Velez, Parker and Moore are scheduled to appear for a status hearing before Judge Durkin on March 16, 2016, at 9:00 a.m., at which time their sentencing dates will be set.
The conviction of Armenta was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Region of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General; and Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The investigation was carried out by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which is part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative between the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to prevent fraud and to enforce anti-fraud laws around the country. Dozens of defendants have been charged in numerous fraud cases since the strike force began operating in Chicago in 2011.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen Chahn Lee, Abigail Peluso and James Durkin.