Ex-CEO Of Merced Clinic Sentenced Five Years In Federal Prison, Fined Millions In Health Care Scam
The former chief executive officer of a Merced-area health care clinic was sentenced Monday to five years in federal prison and fined millions of dollars for committing health care fraud and conspiracy to receive kickbacks.
U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced Tuesday that Sandra Haar, 59, will begin serving her sentence Jan. 15, 2020, according to a statement. Haar was fined $6,107,846 in restitution. She pleaded guilty last year to health care fraud.
Haar founded Horisons Unlimited Health Care, a nonprofit public benefit corporation, in 2004. Haar and the eight clinics throughout Merced, Madera, Mariposa, and Stanislaus counties have been involved in legal troubles since March 2017, according to court documents filed through Merced County Superior Courthouse. Clinics suddenly began to close leaving dozens unemployed and thousands without a health care clinic.
The majority of the Horisons Unlimited patients were on Medi-Cal.
Two years ago, Haar was sued, fired and accused of misconduct that allowed her and her family to profit from the clinic.
Between Jan. 1, 2014 and March 2017, Haar “orchestrated a scheme to bill Medicare and Medi-Cal for services she knew were not reimbursable, and she profited by over $3.7 million from her fraud,” the statement said. She billed Medi-Cal for health and dental services that were unnecessary or not available.
“She also billed Medi-Cal for office visits with purportedly licensed doctors when the patients instead were dispensed Suboxone, an opioid medication, in the parking lots of McDonald’s and Rite Aid in baggies,” according to the statement.
Haar also received thousands of dollars in kickbacks in cash from an account executive at a laboratory in exchange for sending patients to do testing there, the statement said.
“Crime should not pay,” Haar’s attorney Paul Wolf told Valley Public Radio. “But in this case crime did not pay.”
Wolf declined to elaborate further.
Last March, Haartold the Merced Sun-Star she blamed the closure of the clinics on Daniel Kazakos, the former chief financial officer. She said she never profited from the clinic and Kazakos set her up to take the fall.
“The day they fired me it (Horisons) was debt-free,” Haar told the Sun-Star. “They can investigate all they want. Go ahead keep digging, it never happened, it’s what he (Kazakos) wanted them to believe.”
However, documents filed by Kazakos in Merced court said he was the one who uncovered suspicious transactions conducted by Haar in secret. He was hired as CFO in 2016.
In a declaration, he said Haar authorized her own “excessive” salary and benefits without the board’s knowledge, the Sun-Star reported, and “‘self-serving lease agreements’ between Horisons and properties owned by her and her husband.”
Haar made more than $300,000 yearly, a Sun-Star investigation found, and millions of dollars from the clinic were connected back to the Haar family.
The FBI and the U.S Department of Health and Human Services were among at least seven other agencies that investigated Haar and Horisons Unlimited.