HOUSTON (CW39) — Fifteen Texas doctors have agreed to pay a total of $2.83 million to resolve allegations involving illegal kickbacks. Eighteen other Texas doctors previously reached similar settlements.

“These settlements should reinforce the message that the Eastern District of Texas will not tolerate health care providers who seek to enrich themselves through kickback schemes,” U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston said. “We will continue to work with our agency partners to identify those who defraud our taxpayers and we will hold those who have engaged in the schemes responsible.”   

The settlements announced Tuesday will resolve allegations that each of the doctors violated the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law by receiving thousands of dollars in remuneration from nine management service organizations in exchange for ordering laboratory tests from Rockdale Hospital dba Little River Healthcare, True Health Diagnostics LLC, and/or Boston Heart Diagnostics Corporation.

Little River allegedly funded the remuneration to certain doctors, in the form of volume-based commissions paid to independent contractor recruiters, who used MSOs to pay numerous doctors for their referrals. The MSO payments to the doctors were allegedly disguised as investment returns but in fact, were based on, and offered in exchange for, the doctors’ referrals. 

The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by Medicare, Medicaid and other federally-funded programs. The Stark Law forbids a hospital or laboratory from billing Medicare for certain services referred by physicians that have a financial relationship with the hospital or laboratory.

The Texas doctors who agreed to the settlement were:

  • Louis Coates, D.O., of Garland, Texas, agreed to pay $87,694 to settle allegations that from Sept. 26, 2016, to March 14, 2018, he received kickbacks from an MSO, Herculis MG LLC, in return for ordering laboratory tests from Boston Heart.
  • Jason DeMattia, M.D., and Candice DeMattia, M.D., both of Tomball, Texas, agreed to pay $316,142 and $207,009, respectively, to settle allegations that from Aug.1, 2014, to Dec. 31, 2016, they received kickbacks from two MSOs, North Houston MSO Group Inc. and Tomball Medical Management Inc., in return for ordering laboratory tests from True Health and Little River.
  • Emanuel Paul (E.P.) Descant II, M.D., of Spring, Texas, agreed to pay $256,466 to settle allegations that from Jan. 5, 2015, through Feb. 3, 2018, he received kickbacks from two MSOs, North Houston MSO Group Inc. and Tomball Medical Management Inc., in return for ordering laboratory tests from Little River.
  • Mitchell Finnie, M.D., of San Antonio, Texas, agreed to pay $582,522 to settle allegations that from June 4, 2015, to July 11, 2017, he received kickbacks from two MSOs, Alpha Rise Health LLC and Tango Rise Health Solutions LLC, in return for ordering laboratory tests from Boston Heart, True Health and Little River.
  • Mark Le, M.D., of Tomball, Texas, agreed to pay $57,900 to settle allegations that from May 9, 2016, to Sept. 22, 2017, he received kickbacks from two MSOs, North Houston MSO Group Inc. and Tomball Medical Management Inc., in return for ordering laboratory tests from True Health and Little River.
  • Richard Le, M.D., of Houston, Texas, agreed to pay $41,000 to settle allegations that from Sept. 29, 2016, to Aug. 24, 2017, he received kickbacks from two MSOs, North Houston MSO Group Inc. and Tomball Medical Management Inc., in return for ordering laboratory tests from True Health and Little River.
  • Robert Jeremy Laningham, M.D., and Rodney Jason Laningham, M.D., both of Conroe, Texas, agreed to pay $470,560 to settle allegations that from Aug. 8, 2015, through July 6, 2016, they received kickbacks from two MSOs, SYNRG Partners LLC and Transparity Associates LP in return for ordering laboratory tests from Boston Heart, True Health and Little River.
  • Andres Mesa, M.D., of Houston, Texas, agreed to pay $45,484 to settle allegations that from May 1, 2016, to Jan. 9, 2018, he received kickbacks from an MSO, Transparity Associates LP, in return for ordering laboratory tests from Boston Heart and Little River.
  • Melissa Miskell, D.O., of New Braunfels, Texas, agreed to pay $100,392 to settle allegations that from July 13, 2015, to Dec. 14, 2017, she received kickbacks from an MSO, Alpha Rise Health LLC, in return for ordering laboratory tests from Boston Heart and Little River.
  • Marco Munoz, M.D., of Fort Worth, Texas, agreed to pay $54,280 to settle allegations that from July 7, 2015, to April 6, 2016, he received kickbacks from an MSO, Alpha Rise Health LLC, in return for ordering laboratory tests from Boston Heart and Little River.
  • Kozhaya Sokhon, M.D., of the Woodlands, Texas, agreed to pay $160,456 to settle allegations that from Jan. 16, 2015, to May 18, 2018, he received kickbacks from two MSOs, SYNRG Partners LLC and Transparity Associates LP, in return for ordering laboratory tests from Boston Heart and Little River.
  • Annie Varughese, M.D., of the Woodlands, Texas, agreed to pay $213,888 to settle allegations that from Sept. 1, 2015, to Nov. 17, 2017, she received kickbacks from three MSOs, SYNRG Partners LLC, Transparity Associates LP, and North Houston MSO Group Inc., in return for ordering laboratory tests from True Health and Little River.
  • Paul Worrell, D.O., of Dallas, Texas, agreed to pay $237,487 to settle allegations that from Oct. 9, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2017 he received kickbacks from three MSOs, Ascend MSO of TX LLC, Eridanus MG LLC and BDS Healthcare LLC, dba Vybrem Labs, in return for ordering laboratory tests from Boston Heart, True Health and Little River.

As part of their settlements, the 15 physicians have also agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice’s investigations of and litigation against other parties involved in the alleged violations of law.