Crime

Former Merced-area executive pleads guilty to health care fraud

Horisons Unlimited Health Care on Main Street in Merced on March 2, 2018.
Horisons Unlimited Health Care on Main Street in Merced on March 2, 2018. mvelez@mercedsun-star.com

The former executive of several Merced-area health clinics pleaded guilty on Monday to health care fraud and receiving kickbacks in connection with a years-long, multimillion-dollar scheme, the California Department of Justice announced.

Sandra Haar, 57, was the founder and chief executive officer of Horisons Unlimited, a nonprofit chain of clinics that provided health and dental services to thousands of low-income patients in Merced and other parts of the San Joaquin Valley.

Haar entered her plea Monday in U.S. District Court in Fresno, prosecutors said.

Potentially, Haar faces up to 20 years in prison and millions in fines. Prosecutors said the actual sentence will be handed down by a federal judge in January.

“At her very first court appearance, Ms. Haar plead guilty to all criminal charges brought against her by the federal government,” Haar’s attorney, Paul Wolf, said in an email. “She accepts her responsibility for, and is determined to do whatever she can to rectify, the problems and losses she participated in causing while incurring the least possible expenditure of government resources to obtain that result.”

According to a copy of the plea agreement signed by Haar, prosecutors agreed not to press criminal charges against three people with ties to Haar, including her husband, Norman, her daughter, Sara Price, and Karen Tlemcami.

State prosecutors said Haar “orchestrated” a scam to bill Medi-Cal and Medicare for services she knew were not reimbursable and profited more than $3.7 million from the scheme between 2014 and March 2017.

Prosecutors said Haar billed for services that were not provided and for services that were “unnecessary.”

Haar also falsified services that were received, prosecutors said, including claiming some patients had been seen by licensed doctors when patients instead were simply given an opioid medication in the parking lot of McDonald’s and Rite Aid in plastic sandwich bags, according to court documents.

According to the plea agreement, Haar also received thousands of dollars in “kickbacks in cash” from a laboratory to route testing work to that company.

Haar has been involved in a string of legal battles since March 2017. She was sued, fired and accused of profiting and allowing her family to profit from the clinic.

The deal marked a major turnaround for Harr who, in an interview earlier this year with the Sun-Star, denied any wrongdoing in connection with the eight clinics in Merced, Madera, Stanislaus and Mariposa counties.

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