14 in Inland Empire arrested in $4.2M Medicare, Medi-Cal fraud scam

Fourteen people were arrested Thursday for allegedly stealing more than $4 million from federal and state aid programs, according to Attorney General Rob Bonta.

The 14 people were associated with two separate hospice companies based in San Bernardino County - New Hope Hospice, Inc., and Sterling Hospice Care, Inc. They're accused of defrauding the federal Medicare and state Medi-Cal programs, allegedly enrolling patients into hospice who weren't terminally ill, including some who were "enrolled without their knowledge or understanding of what hospice was," according to the Attorney General's office.

"End-of-life care is a difficult process for families to endure, and patients should be able to trust that their hospice providers are acting in good faith," Bonta said in a press release Thursday.

The 14 arrested Thursday face charges of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, insurance fraud, grand theft, fraudulent insurance claims, and in some cases identity theft, money laundering, and tax evasion.

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An investigation involving state and federal agencies found that between 2015 and 2021, the group allegedly billed the aid programs for millions of dollars in hospice care, for patients who were not in fact terminally ill. According to Bonta's office, the group members had different roles, including lying to patients about what medical services they were receiving; using patient information to enroll them in hospice care without them knowing; paying others to recruit patients for hospice care, and more.

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Hospice is meant for terminally ill patients, to alleviate pain and manage symptoms, rather than cure illnesses. Under the Medicare and Medi-Cal programs, hospice patients forego the ability to receive treatments like chemotherapy. While Bonta's office didn't specify that any of the patients tricked into hospice care as part of this scam required such treatments, it did say that it, "would have made access to potentially lifesaving medical care difficult in the event that any of them required it."

Two people are still wanted in connection with this fraud scam.

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