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Nine Years In Federal Prison For Former Business Manager Of Cardinal Respiratory

September 21, 2009

Springfield, Ill. – The former business manager for Cardinal Respiratory, P.C., Rickey E. Weir, 62, was sentenced today to 110 months (9 years, 2 months) in federal prison for health care fraud, as announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Jeffrey B. Lang, Central District of Illinois. Weir was also ordered to pay $100,000 to settle additional civil liability claims under the False Claims Act. Following today’s hearing, Weir was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service for transfer to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Cardinal Respiratory, P.C., previously a Springfield medical practice that specialized in allergies and immunology, pled guilty in October 2007, to one count of felony health care fraud, and was ordered to pay $2.5 million in restitution, fines, and penalties, including refunds to patients, for engaging in fraudulent and abusive billing practices.

Janet Despot, M.D., who owned and practiced medicine at Cardinal Respiratory, was fined $10,000 on February 4, 2008, after pleading guilty to illegal balance billing in violation of her agreement with Medicare, a misdemeanor offense.

Weir pled guilty on February 12, 2009, to one count of health care fraud. For a 10-year period, from 1997 through April 2007, Weir admitted he engaged in a pattern of fraudulent and abusive billing and collections at Cardinal Respiratory, P.C. including: billing for ordinary office medical supplies; ‘upcoding’; overbilling the number of units for the preparation of allergy serum and number of injections performed; multiple billing for single services; and, balance billing.

Weir admitted that billing statements sent to patients were so confusing that it was very difficult for patients to determine the service or procedure for which they were being billed. Further, Weir and Cardinal made express and implied threats that failure to pay would result in the account being turned over to a collection agency or attorney for collection, and many patients who refused to pay the excessive charges had their accounts referred to one or more collection agencies.

The investigation was conducted by the Central Illinois Health Care Fraud Task Force which includes agents of the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Illinois State Police’s Medicaid Fraud Control Bureau, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Illinois Attorney General’s Office and the Illinois Department of Public Aid. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick D. Hansen and Eric Long prosecuted the case.

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