The proposed half-million-dollar federal settlement for doctors Peter Vaccaro and Kamran Saleh isn’t enough, say the four doctors who blew the whistle in 2004 on alleged fraud between Vaccaro and Saleh and Bradford Regional Medical Center.
On Monday, the attorney for doctors Dilbagh Singh, V. Rao Nadella, Paul Kirsch and Martin Jacobs filed an objection to a proposed settlement between Vaccaro and Saleh and the U.S. Department of Justice. The proposal would allow Vaccaro and Saleh to settle the outstanding Whistleblower case for $500,000 without admitting to any wrongdoing.
The mandatory penalties under the federal False Claims Act would amount to more than $100 million dollars,
explained attorney Andrew Stone, representing the four plaintiffs. He has asked for current financial information from Vaccaro and Saleh to determine if the settlement amount is fair and reasonable given the doctors’ ability to pay, according to court records. The information has not been provided, Stone said.
“The proposed settlement amount — $500,000 over six years — thus represents only about eight percent of the expected income of doctors Vaccaro and Saleh over the next six years,” the motion read.
And using the older financial data, Stone said the financial disclosures “are not suggestive of individuals struggling to make ends meet.” He detailed examples of Saleh’s spending — in March 2011, $9,800 to a jeweler; monthly expenses including $10,813 to “dependents,” even though only one 15-year-old child was listed as a dependent; monthly payments of $3,000 for vehicles including a Bentley, a Mercedes C350, a Cadillac Escalade and a BMW 321; $1,390.66 monthly for clothing; $1,476.58 for entertainment; $498.46 for gifts; and $1,425 for charitable donations, read the motion.
Vaccaro’s expenses weren’t as detailed, but still included $1,987.62 for clothing and $500 for gifts, the motion indicated.
“Thus, just in these categories alone, the total payments by doctors Vaccaro and Saleh are more than the $7,238.78 payments called for in the settlement agreement,” Stone argued.
“These types of expenses are hardly suggestive of physicians who cannot pay more than a few thousand dollars per month to avoid a highly probable judgment of tens of millions of dollars for defrauding the United States taxpayers,” Stone argued.
BRMC has already settled with the U.S. Department of Justice in this matter, for $2.75 million in 2012. Hospital officials did not admit any wrongdoing by entering into the agreement.
A status conference in the case has been scheduled for Thursday in federal court in Pittsburgh.
The case centers around a financial arrangement in which BRMC would allegedly pay kickbacks to Vaccaro, Saleh and their medical practice, V&S Associates, in exchange for patient referrals.
By MARCIE SCHELLHAMMER Era Associate Editor firstname.lastname@example.org