Attorney General Lockyer Announces Medi-Cal Fraud "No Contest" Pleas Entered by Three Defendants in San Diego Blood-Trafficking Case
Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced that three defendants from Long Beach and Irvine who were arrested for Medi-Cal fraud involving the trafficking of blood and kickbacks entered "no contest" pleas in San Diego Superior Court.
Van Dan Hing, 48, of Long Beach, acknowledged in open court Wednesday that he sold blood along with fraudulent patient information to marketers for Pantox Laboratories, Inc., of San Diego. Hing bought the blood on the streets of Long Beach, as well as obtained extra blood samples from patients at his clinic. The blood then was submitted with bogus patient information to the laboratory and the testing billed to the Medi-Cal program. He faces up to four years in prison.
Benedict Garcia, 34, of Irvine, entered a guilty plea to felony charges of committing acts that endangered the public health. His wife, Maria Garcia, also did not contest misdemeanor charges of committing acts that endangered the public health. The couple admitted in court that they had a centrifuge machine at their home and processed blood samples that were delivered to Pantox Laboratories for a kick-back. Benedict Garcia faces up to two years in prison, while his wife, who is five months pregnant, could be sentenced to community service.
Charges are still pending against another defendant, Richard Go Asares, 39, of Lakewood, who fled to the Philippines after posting bail in February. He was charged with felony Medi-Cal fraud involving identify theft for using the names of two Los Angeles County doctors and their physician identification number without permission.
The scheme involved the selling of blood for testing in laboratories that would then bill Medi-Cal and Medicare for services. The blood-selling scheme came to the attention of authorities when Pantox Laboratories in San Diego reported the defendants were submitting requests for blood testing under the names of doctors who had not ordered the tests. The laboratory had been instructed by Asares and the Garcias to give them the results to take back to the doctors.
By November 1998, Asares and Garcia had collected more than $400,000 in improper payments from the laboratory, which offered $45 for every vial of blood submitted. The laboratory was granted immunity from prosecution for the illegal kick-backs in exchange for cooperating with authorities. The laboratory has placed over $200,000 in trust for repayment to the government.
In a related development, Savon Sey, 31, of Long Beach, was arraigned on Tuesday on charges of Medi-Cal fraud for allegedly selling blood with Medi-Cal patient information to Garcia and Asares. Sey owns USC Medical Clinic in Long Beach and allegedly recruited others, including Hing, to obtain blood for laboratory testing in the kick-back scheme. If convicted on all charges Sey faces a maximum of five years, eight months in state prison, and fines of $60,000. Sey is currently in custody with bail set at $250,000.