HOUSTON – The president of a Houston hospital and five others were arrested Thursday.
Riverside Hospital, 3204 Ennis, was raided by federal agents in February. They carted boxes of documents away.
The president of the hospital, Earnest Gibson, his son and four others were taken into custody Thursday morning. They were expected to appear before a federal magistrate on Thursday afternoon.
"It's really too early in the case to tell you what the evidence is," said Chris Flood, Gibson's attorney. "I can tell you he's plead not guilty to the allegations and he wasn't involved until they prove otherwise."
"It's quite a surprise," said Pastor James Nash, who is friends with Gibson. "Totally unexpected. When it happens, all we can do is sit back and see what develops and what happens."
Mohammad Khan, the assistant administrator of the hospital, was arrested in February. He pleaded guilty to defrauding taxpayers out of $116 million.
The Department of Justice said the seven were involved in $158 million worth of fraudulent billing for mental health services.
According to court records, the members of the group paid kickbacks in the form of cigarettes, food and coupons redeemable at the hospital's "country stores" to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for the beneficiaries' attendance at the hospital's partial hospitalization programs. Investigators said those beneficiaries watched television, played games and engaged in other activities not related to the partial hospitalization programs.
"Such activities not only siphon precious taxpayer resources, drive up health care costs, and jeopardize the strength of the Medicare program – they also disproportionately victimize the most vulnerable members of society, including elderly, disabled, and impoverished Americans," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said. "And, unfortunately, we allege that many of those charged today not only broke the law – but also violated their professional obligations, and sacred oaths, as medical practitioners."