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Ex-hospital co-owner pleads guilty in kickback scheme

June 17, 2009 |  1:19 pm

The former co-owner and board chairman of City of Angels Medical Center has pleaded guilty to paying illegal kickbacks for patient referrals.

Robert Bourseau, 74, admitted Tuesday in U.S. District Court to paying illegal kickbacks as part of a scheme to defraud Medicare and Medi-Cal by recruiting homeless people from Los Angeles’ skid row.

Bourseau is the fourth person to plead guilty in a widespread scheme to exploit those living on the streets for their medical benefits. In pleading guilty, Bourseau admitted to participating in a scheme to pay people to refer homeless Medicare and Medi-Cal beneficiaries to City of Angels for in-patient hospital stays.

The hospital tried to conceal the kickbacks by creating sham "consulting" contracts.

Estill Mitts, who operated a downtown center that recruited homeless people to receive unnecessary health services, pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to commit several federal crimes.

In December, Rudra Sabaratnam, the former chief executive of City of Angels, pleaded guilty to paying illegal kickbacks for patient referrals. In March 2009, Dante Nicholson, an Angels hospital vice president, pleaded guilty to paying kickbacks for patient referrals.

Sabaratnam, Mitts and Nicholson are all scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 17 by U.S. District Court Judge George H. King.

The charges to which Bourseau has pleaded guilty carry a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. Bourseau has agreed to pay more than $4.1 million in restitution to Medicare and Medi-Cal.

-- Richard Winton