A defendant who resides in the Miracle Mile has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for recruiting homeless people as part of a widespread scheme to defraud Medicare and Medi-Cal by providing unnecessary health services.
Estill Mitts, 68, was sentenced by United States District Judge George H. King. In addition to the prison term, King ordered Mitts to pay more than $9.8 million in restitution. The judge stated that Mitts’ conduct was “fueled by greed to enrich himself,” and “breeds contempt for, leads to a lack of confidence in, and threatens the stability of” the Medicare program.
Mitts pleaded guilty in 2008 to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. His sentencing was delayed a number of times as he provided assistance to the government’s investigation that has led to 11 defendants being charged and convicted. Mitts reportedly recruited homeless individuals on Skid Row as part of the scheme. Known as “capping” — or illegal referral — the scheme was discovered in fall 2006 after authorities observed some patients discharged from a local hospital being left on Skid Row. The patients subsequently reported that they had been paid to go to the hospital.
Mitts “was a ring-leader in a significant, long-term, serious crime that used the homeless as fodder for exploiting the Medicare and Medi-Cal programs,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo filed with the court. He admitted that he received more than $1 million in kickbacks.
From 2004 until October 2007, Mitts operated the Assessment Center, a facility on East 7th St. in downtown Los Angeles that was also known as 7th Street Christian Day Center. “Mitts employed individuals he called “stringers” to recruit homeless people with promises of small payments,” according to the sentencing memorandum. “The Assessment Center was not a medical clinic, but a site that defendant used for the purpose of recruiting homeless Medicare and Medi-Cal beneficiaries for referral to three hospitals — City of Angels Hospital, Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center and Tustin Hospital and Medical Center. [The] Defendant and others working for him would recruit homeless beneficiaries for in-patient hospital admissions whether or not such hospitalizations were medically necessary.”
Mitts is the latest in a series of defendant to be sentenced in relation to the Skid Row investigation.
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