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Nurses to plead guilty to roles in cancer center fraud

JACKSON — Federal court records say two nurses will plead guilty to withholding information about a crime at a former south Mississippi cancer clinic that prosecutors said was involved in a multimillion-dollar fraud related to chemotherapy treatments.

Brittany Davis Powell and Courtney Michelle Young were charged with misprision of a felony on Aug. 22 in U.S. District Court in Jackson. Prosecutors charged each woman in a criminal bill of information, which is usually filed when a defendant plans to waive indictment and plead guilty.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson wrote Wednesday in court filings that defense attorneys informed the court that the women intend to plead guilty. No court date has been set for pleas.

The women’s lawyers did not immediately respond to phone messages Wednesday.

Court records say Young and Powell didn’t report that the clinic’s founder ordered nurses in 2010 to make retroactive entries in patients’ files related to health care payments.

Rose Cancer Center founder Dr. Meera Sachdeva and two others were convicted late last year. Sachdeva was sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to repay nearly $8.2 million after pleading guilty to one count of health care fraud and two counts of making false statements.

At sentencing for Sachdeva, U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan III said he was “appalled” by the treatment of the patients, but he said prosecutors didn’t prove that chemotherapy drugs were watered down as has been alleged by prosecutors. However, Jordon said that syringes were re-used and multiple patients’ chemotherapy drugs were drawn from the same bag.

Sachdeva established the clinic in Summit in 2005. Authorities say the clinic billed Medicaid and Medicare for about $15.1 million during the scheme.

Among other things, prosecutors said the doctor submitted claims for chemotherapy services that were supposedly given while she was out of the country.

The Mississippi State Department of Health closed Rose Cancer Center in July 2012 because of “unsafe infection control practices” after 11 patients were hospitalized with the same bacterial infection.

The scare led officials to test nearly 300 cancer patients for infections such as HIV. The department said at the time that none of the patients tested had blood-borne viral infections related to the clinic’s care. However, a civil lawsuit claimed at least one patient died about the time the clinic was shut down from HIV he contracted there.

The clinic’s office manager, Brittany McCoskey of Monticello was sentenced to 13 months in prison and ordered to help pay $55,069 in restitution after pleading guilty to making false statements.

Monica Weeks of Madison, who handled the clinic’s billing from her Ridgeland firm, Medical Billing Group, was sentenced to three months’ house arrest and three years’ probation and ordered her to help pay $19,550 in restitution.

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