Missouri Laboratory Owners Agree to Pay $1.9 Million and Relinquish $7 Million in Escrow in Settlement of Civil Fraud Claims
ST. LOUIS – A doctor who owns multiple urgent care centers in the St. Louis, Missouri area was arrested Thursday on an indictment accusing him and his office manager of committing health care fraud.
Dr. Sonny Saggar, 55, and Renita Barringer, 50, were each indicted Wednesday on one count of conspiracy and eight counts of making false statements related to a health care matter. They were arrested, appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to the charges Thursday.
The indictment says Dr. Saggar has owned and operated health care-related businesses, including Downtown Urgent Care LLC, Creve Coeur Urgent Care LLC, and, since about September 2017, St. Louis General Hospital (SLGH). SLGH is an urgent care and primary care clinic with two locations: 916 Olive Street in St. Louis and 13035 Olive Boulevard in unincorporated St. Louis County near Creve Coeur.
Barringer was the office manager of SLGH and was later added to the board of directors.
The indictment says Dr. Saggar, Barringer and others conspired to make false statements to Medicare and Medicaid by billing for services performed by multiple assistant physicians (APs) as if Dr. Saggar had provided those services, even if he was out of town or abroad.
In order to legally provide medical services in Missouri, assistant physicians must be supervised by a physician under a "collaborative practice arrangement" or "CPA" that restricts the AP's ability to provide medical services and limits their practice areas to medically underserved rural or urban areas.
Dr. Saggar promoted SLGH as a "stepping stone" for medical school graduates who had been unable to secure a residency and were ineligible to obtain a standard license to practice medicine. At least 39 APs have worked at SLGH since January 2018, the indictment says.
Dr. Saggar and Barringer recruited physicians to sign up to supervise the APs, falsely telling them that they merely needed to sign blank, undated CPA Verification Forms to fulfill their roles, the indictment says.
The APs often did not receive any training from their supervising physicians, who were not continuously present despite a requirement mandating 120 hours of clinic time together before the APs may practice without the presence of a physician, the indictment says. It also says Dr. Saggar and Barringer discouraged APs from seeking training and supervision from their purported assigned collaborating physicians. The Creve Coeur location was not a medically underserved rural or urban area, making it ineligible for a CPA, the indictment says.
In January of 2022, Dr. Saggar hired a co-conspirator who had been indicted in another case to be the sole collaborating physician at the Creve Coeur location but did not disclose to Medicaid that the co-conspirator was performing services there, the indictment says.
The conspiracy charge and the false statements charge are each punishable by up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
Charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the FBI and the Missouri Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit are investigating this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Sestric is prosecuting the case.