The CEO of a Hayward-based nursing and hospice service and one of her office managers have been accused by the U.S. Department of Justice of creating fraudulent medical records to make more than $120,000 in insurance reimbursements.
South San Francisco resident Veronica Katz, 33, and Hayward resident Venessa Herrera, 29, were charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Friday.
Both defendants appeared in federal court Friday and were released on bond.
The women allegedly conspired to enter the names of licensed medical practitioners into billing information for Medicare claims without the practitioners' knowledge, the office said.
They are also accused of forging the names of registered nurses and other health care professionals on electronic medical patient and billing records, creating the false impression of medical procedures that were eligible for Medicare reimbursement.
Katz, meanwhile, is suspected of directing a vocational nurse under her hire to falsely represent herself as a registered nurse who did not work at HealthNow.
Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds, along with special agents in the FBI and Department of Health and Human Services, detailed the defendants' suspected crimes in an informational briefing to the Department of Justice, Hinds' office said Friday.
Investigators started looking into HealthNow's records last year after receiving a government complaint from a cooperating witness who was listed by the company as a physical therapist working with about 70 patients. The witness, investigators say, never worked at HealthNow or saw any patients on the company's behalf.
In addition to the possibility of a 20-year sentence, Katz and Herrera could also be fined $250,000 or twice what they gained in the operation, if they are found guilty.
HealthNow has its headquarters in Hayward and offers home health care, nursing and hospice services in six Bay Area counties.
"Our company is owner-operated, hires the most professional and compassionate staff, and works closely with hospitals, doctors, senior home facilities, and with the families of the patients," the company's website states.
"At HealthNow, we treat the patient and the family like they are our own. Our goal is to make your loved ones comfortable during rehabilitation or transition," the website adds.
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