Federal investigators have identified five former and current administrators at CoxHealth in Springfield, Mo., as targets or subjects in a Medicare fraud investigation.
Former CoxHealth Chief Executive Officer Larry Wallis and former Chief Financial Officer Larry Pennel have been named as unindicted "targets" of the government investigation, while former employee David Tapp, CoxHealth Corporate Compliance Officer Betty Breshears and CoxHealth CEO Bob Bezanson have all been identified as "subjects" of the investigation.
Although subjects are typically involved in criminal cases as witnesses, they could eventually become defendants.
The executives were named in a motion filed in federal court in Springfield last week by U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, who is seeking to delay discovery in a civil whistle-blower lawsuit filed by two former CoxHealth employees in May because it would interfere with the criminal investigation.
In the civil lawsuit, employees charged that CoxHealth fired them because they reported possible criminal conduct regarding Medicare billing practices and physician reimbursement for dialysis services.
In his motion, Graves said the federal investigation, which was launched in December 2004, predated the civil lawsuit and described it as "wide-ranging" although one of the matters under investigation is "the method by which CoxHealth billed Medicare for dialysis services," as well as how CoxHealth paid physicians who provided those services.
CoxHealth said in a written statement that it supports the government's motion to prevent the plaintiffs from harming the investigation. Officials also said that they are fully cooperating with the government's investigation and separately "look forward" to answering the plaintiff's civil allegations in court.
CoxHealth maintains that the civil lawsuit "is an employment lawsuit, not a whistle-blower lawsuit," said Laurie Cunningham, a CoxHealth spokeswoman.
Officials said in the statement that the two former employees "were terminated for reasons related to misconduct and harassment of other employees, and not as a result of any information that they may or may not have provided to the government."
Federal investigators as a matter of policy do not comment on active investigations, a spokesman said.