National Roundup

Ex-hospice exec indicted in fraud

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The former head of a Pittsburgh-area hospice used patients who weren't terminally ill to collect millions of dollars in false Medicare and Medicaid billings, according to a federal indictment.

Former Horizons Hospice chief operating officer Mary Ann Stewart, 47, was indicted in Pittsburgh on one count of health care fraud and four counts of lying to a federal grand jury.

The indictment contends the alleged fraud cost the government unspecified millions of dollars from January 2008 through August 2012 at the facility in Monroeville, about 15 miles east of Pittsburgh. The indictment alleges she conspired with unnamed "others known to the grand jury," but federal prosecutors aren't saying whether anyone else might be charged.

Stewart had her staff admit patients who weren't terminally ill to the hospice, so she could bill the government insurance programs for end-of-life medical services, the indictment said. Such treatment often includes pain medications and management.

Officials with the hospice center didn't return a call for comment.

Thursday's indictment wasn't the first time an executive at the center has faced federal charges.

Dr. Oliver Herndon, 43, formerly of McMurray, pleaded guilty in November to submitting claims for Horizons Hospice patients who weren't terminally ill or for services not provided. He faces sentencing in that case on July 14 before a federal judge in Pittsburgh.

Herndon is already serving 11 years, three months in prison stemming from a previous federal court conviction in Pittsburgh. In that case, he acknowledged overprescribing drugs - mostly the painkillers oxycodone and oxymorphone - without a legitimate medical purpose and with health care fraud relating to his private practice in neighboring Washington County.

That investigation began in fall 2011 after 26 Pittsburgh-area pharmacies contacted federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents with concerns about unusually large prescriptions for narcotic painkillers from Herndon.

The DEA raided Herndon's palliative care practice in the upscale suburb of Peters Township in February 2012. Investigators found 87 other pharmacies had also stopped filling Herndon's prescriptions because of concerns he was overprescribing painkillers.

Federal authorities said then that Herndon supplied so many illegal painkillers that their street price doubled after his arrest.

Online court records don't list an attorney for Stewart. She now lives in Bossier City, Louisiana, and does not have a telephone listed in her name.

She's scheduled to be arraigned before a federal magistrate in Pittsburgh on March 19.

Photographer acquitted of taking eaglets

OTTAWA, Ill. (AP) - A northern Illinois nature photographer has been found not guilty on charges of illegally taking two injured baby eagles from the wild, four months after his first trial ended with a deadlocked jury.

Steve Patterson of Oglesby was accused of illegally taking the federally protected birds from a spot near his home in June 2013 and arranging for their rehabilitation at a Barrington wildlife center even though conservation officials told him to leave them alone.

Jurors decided for Patterson on Thursday.

Prosecutors had argued that Patterson should have followed orders from state Conservation Police, who told him not to touch the birds. They also said he has a history of tampering with wildlife. The judge did not permit testimony that the birds would have died if left on their own.

After the verdict, Patterson said he felt vindicated because one of the eagles was released to the wild on Jan. 1 and another remains at the rehab center.

Center director Dawn Keller issued a statement saying she was happy about Patterson's acquittal and that she was "shocked to learn that Steve had been arrested after saving the lives of these injured eaglets," because her center accepts more than 1,500 federally protected birds every year from members of the public.

Juror Paige Groleau of Ottawa said Patterson's emotional testimony helped sway the panel.

A jury deadlocked during Patterson's first trial last October, although most members voted to convict him.

State Supreme Court suspends district judge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered a 90-day, unpaid suspension for Sedgwick County District Judge Timothy H. Henderson for violating the code of judicial conduct.

The ruling handed down Friday comes after a finding by the Judicial Qualifications Commission that Henderson had sexually harassed female attorneys and staff. The panel had also found that he tried to prejudice an attorney because of the judge's personal views and had tried to use his office to get his wife a job.

The court also ordered Henderson to complete within a year a course in sexual harassment, and file a report with the court detailing his training.

It further prohibited him from supervising any judicial branch employee other than his chambers staff for two years after that training.

'Library girl' pleads not guilty for porn video

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - The 19-year-old woman who appears in a pornographic video recorded in the Oregon State University library pleaded not guilty Thursday in Corvallis to a charge of public indecency.

Former student Kendra Sunderland admits she's in the video that was recorded in October and posted on the Internet in January. But her lawyer, Mike Flinn, told KEZI somebody else recorded it without her consent.

The video shows her undressing at a table.

Sunderland is due back in Benton County court on April 28.

Cops: Man attacked disabled dad with antlers

MONONGAHELA, Pa. (AP) - Police say a Pennsylvania man who was angry that his disabled father wouldn't get out of bed has attacked him with a set of mounted antlers.

Twenty-six-year-old Arthur Benoit (BEHN'-wah) III, of Monongahela (muh-nahn-guh-HAYL'-uh), faces a preliminary hearing March 10 on charges including assault and terroristic threats.

The (Washington) Observer-Reporter reports that police charged Benoit this week over the Feb. 17 altercation at the home he shared with his father.

Police say Benoit became angry when his dad wouldn't get out of bed that morning. Police say he broke his father's wheelchair and cellphone before hitting him in the legs and head with the antlers.

Published: Mon, Mar 02, 2015