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Alta Vista Healthcare & Wellness Centre, LLC, a skilled nursing facility in Riverside, California, and its management company, Rockport Healthcare Services, a privately held California corporation that provides management services to skilled nursing facilities, have entered into a settlement agreement to pay the United States and California a total of $3.825 million to resolve allegations that they submitted and caused the submission of false claims to Medicare and Medicaid by paying kickbacks to physicians to induce patient referrals.

The settlement amount was negotiated based on Alta Vista’s and Rockport’s lack of ability to pay.

The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering or paying remuneration to induce the referral of items or services covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and other federally funded programs. It is intended to ensure that medical decision-making is not compromised by improper financial incentives and is instead based on the best interests of the patient.

From 2009 through 2019, Alta Vista, under the direction and control of Rockport, gave certain physicians extravagant gifts, including expensive dinners for the physicians and their spouses, golf trips, limousine rides, massages, e-reader tablets, and gift cards worth up to $1,000.

Separately, Alta Vista paid these physicians monthly stipends of $2,500 to $4,000, purportedly for their services as medical directors. At least one purpose of these gifts and payments was to induce these physicians to refer patients to Alta Vista.

The defendants’ conduct allegedly resulted in false claims to Medicare and California’s Medicaid programs, the latter of which is jointly funded by the federal government and California. Under the settlement, they will pay $3,228,300 to the United States and $596,700 to California.

The settlement stems from a whistleblower complaint filed in 2015 by a former Alta Vista accounting employee, Neyirys Orozco, pursuant to the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private persons to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the government and to share in the proceeds of the suit. Orozco will receive $581,094 as her share of the federal government’s recovery in this case.

In addition to resolving their False Claims Act liability, Alta Vista and Rockport have entered into a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with the HHS-OIG which requires, among other compliance obligations, an Independent Review Organization’s review of Alta Vista’s and Rockport’s physician relationships.

This matter was handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, Fraud Section, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, and the California Department of Justice, with investigative support from the HHS-OIG.

The case is captioned United States of America ex rel. Neyiris Orozco v. Shlomo Rechnitz et al., No. 15-cv-6177 (C.D. Cal.).