The former chief operating officer of a now-closed Chicago hospital will serve one year in prison for his involvement in a kickback scheme that bribed doctors to refer Medicare and Medicaid patients to the hospital.
Anthony Puorro cooperated with federal investigators to help blow open the case against Sacred Heart Hospital and its leaders, finding the hospital's owner and top executives paid doctors kickbacks over a 12-year period under the guise of teaching agreements and lease contracts.
All in all, Sacred Heart raked in $35 million during the scheme, according to federal prosecutors.
While Puorro cooperated with federal prosecutors and recorded conversations pertinent to the scheme, there were holes in his work as he tried to hide his own involvement and protect another doctor. Puorro pled guilty for his involvement in the scheme in December 2014, and faced up to five years in prison under his plea agreement.
But federal prosecutors called for a shorter sentence for Puorro after seeing his co-defendants receive lighter punishments. Former chief executive Edward Novak was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for 26 counts of paying kickbacks and a conspiracy charge. Novak also was ordered to pay $10.4 million in restitution. Ex-chief financial officer Roy Payawal received a one year and one day sentence for his involvement. Puorro's replacement as chief operating officer, Clarence Nagelvoort, received a 21 month sentence.
So far, eight defendants have been sentenced and two more await punishment. Sacred Heart struggled in the aftermath of the indictments, failing to find a buyer and ultimately auctioning off its equipment and selling its building in 2013.