A Houston psychiatrist who was indicted separately in the Riverside General Hospital $160 million Medicare billing fraud scheme pleaded not guilty on Friday and intends to stand trial in August.
Dr. Sharon Iglehart is accused of one federal conspiracy count, two health care fraud charges and a pair of allegations that she made false statements to investigators. At a pretrial conference before U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein, her lawyers - which include high-powered defense attorney Rusty Hardin - said she is ready to face a jury. Iglehart originally was arrested in December 2013, but the allegations have been amended twice since then - growing from nine to 12 pages in the most recent indictment secured from a federal grand jury and filed on July 21. Iglehart pleaded not guilty to the amended five counts and retained her freedom on $50,000 bail.
Former Riverside CEO and president Earnest Gibson III was convicted as the ringleader in three conspiracies involving Medicare billings for Riverside's psychiatric treatment programs from 2005 to 2012 in which patients were ineligible for treatment or were warehoused but did not receive the reported care. The government alleged that $31 million in fraudulent reimbursement requests were paid. His son, former group home owner Earnest Gibson IV was also convicted at trial and sentenced to 20 years.
The elder Gibson received the heaviest punishment so far: 45 years. His second-in-command, Mohammad Khan, received a 40-year sentence. They received some of the nation's longest sentences for health care fraud - particularly, stealing from the Medicare or Medicaid programs, which is one of the top criminal prosecutorial priorities for the U.S. Justice Department.
Through her Iglehart Wellness Center, the psychiatrist allegedly participated in the scheme by submitting claims that falsely indicated she provided intensive outpatient services for severe mental illness through Riverside's treatment program. Iglehart retains an active medical license in Texas. She was reprimanded by the Texas Medical Board in 2009 for "recreating medical records for psychiatric patients significantly later than the time she had provided examination, diagnosis and treatment to the patients," according to the agency's website. Her disciplinary status was cleared in 2011.
Jury selection in Iglehart's case is set for Aug. 31. If convicted, the doctor faces up to 10 years in prison on each count. Regina Askew, who rose from a case worker to become an auditor, will spend 12 years in prison.
In July, Sharonda Holmes, who was involved in paying and receiving kickbacks, was sentenced to 3½ years and Waddie McDuffie became the sixth person to receive prison time in the scam that crippled Riverside. The historic Third Ward institution began as Houston's first hospital for black patients and became one of the state's largest providers of substance abuse and mental health treatment. McDuffie pleaded guilty to delivering kickback money to group home owners in exchange for them sending patients for mental health treatment at the hospital. He received a five-year term of probation and six months of home confinement. Those who have pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial are among the dozen defendants who are jointly responsible for $46 million in restitution.
All of the Riverside cases are being prosecuted by Washington-based lawyers assigned to the Justice Department's criminal fraud division.