The former COO of Cleveland-based MetroHealth Hospital System has been sentenced to more than 15 years in federal prison for his role in a conspiracy to defraud the hospital through bribes and kickbacks totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
Edward R. Hills had served as chief operating officer of the system and director of MetroHealth Dental from 2010 to 2014. He also served as interim president and CEO from December 2012 through July 2013.
A jury previously found Hills, Sari Alqsous, Yazan B. Al-Madani and Tariq Sayegh—all dentists employed by MetroHealth—guilty of criminal charges following a trial last year. The other three defendants are scheduled to be sentenced later this month.
Federal prosecutors say Hill allowed the three dentists to work at their private practices while billing MetroHealth for full-time salaries. As director of MetroHealth Dental, Hills determined monthly bonuses for employed dentists. While most dentists received 25% of the amounts they generated in excess receipts, Hills gave Alqsous, Al-Madani and others about $92,829.
In exchange for these favors, Hills received cash, checks, expensive gifts and the use of a downtown apartment. He also received an expensive Louis Vuitton briefcase as a gift when he became interim CEO because he wanted the same one that his predecessor, Mark Moran, carried.
"Mr. Hills will now serve his deserved sentence for defrauding our healthcare system," FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith said. "The investigation and subsequent prosecution of Hills and his associates revealed these individuals had engaged in a pervasive pattern of fraud, betraying the MetroHealth Hospital System, its employees, and our community."
According to the Justice Department, Alqsous, Al-Madani and Sayegh solicited and accepted bribes totaling $75,000 from students applying for MetroHealth's dental residency program between 2008 and 2014. The three influenced which candidates were selected and Hills selected the final candidates.
Al-Madani and Alqsous also paid Hills $17,600 in bribes to refer Medicaid patients to their private dental practices instead of MetroHealth. Hills, Alqsous and Al-Madani also conspired to obstruct justice by asking people not to cooperate with law enforcement after becoming aware of the federal investigation in 2014.
Hills also made false statements on tax returns, failing to claim about $165,751 that came from bribes, kickbacks and gifts between 2011 and 2013.