Former Pittsburgh hospice manager sentenced to prison for fraud
The former manager of a Pittsburgh hospice will spend 15 months in prison for admitting patients who were not terminally ill so her company could falsely bill Medicare and Medicaid for end-of-life care, a federal judge ruled Monday.
Mary Ann Stewart, 49, of Carrolltown, Cambria County, pleaded guilty in June to one count of health care fraud.
She was the chief operations manager for the local office of Horizons Hospice LLC, which is now named 365 Hospice.
The prolonged illnesses of her parents before they died led her to hospice care as a profession, she said.
“I wanted (patients) to be treated like I wanted my mother and father to be treated,” Stewart said.
She ended up making some “very bad decisions,” she said. “I'm sorry.”
Her attorney, Robert Goldman, argued that the loss of her profession and the likelihood that no health care company will employ someone convicted of health care fraud is a severe punishment and that the public would be better served if she were on home confinement or probation and sentenced to do community service.
U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry noted that Stewart did not stop committing the fraud voluntarily, even when caught, and lied to a federal grand jury.
“You knowingly committed a crime for a long period of time,” he said. She forced subordinates to help in the crime, the judge added.
He sentenced her to two years of probation and ordered her to pay $175,000 in restitution to the government.
Oliver W. Herndon, 44, of Peters pleaded guilty in November 2014 to participating in the fraud while he was the medical director of Horizons' Pittsburgh office.
He is serving a 33-month sentence for the fraud that runs concurrently with the 11 years and 3 months he's serving for a May 2012 guilty plea for prescribing 10,800 oxycodone tablets and 3,600 oxymorphone tablets to patients who did not need the powerful painkillers for medical reasons.