A Mesquite-based bariatric surgeon today formally admitted his role in the $200 million Forest Park Medical Center fraud, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.
53-year-old Wade Neal Barker, one of Forest Park’s founding doctors, appeared in court this morning, where he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to pay and receive healthcare bribes and kickbacks as well as aiding and abetting commercial bribery.
“Patients trust doctors to make healthcare recommendations based on their best interests,” said Nealy Cox. “Instead, Dr. Barker let his own financial considerations guide decisions about where patients would be treated – and, in the process, defrauded millions from patients’ insurance. The Northern District of Texas will not tolerate plots that undermine confidence in the healthcare system.”
“With the plea in this conspiracy to defraud patients and the healthcare industry by those entrusted to administer and to protect it, the FBI and our law enforcement and regulatory partners will increase our efforts to shine even brighter lights on such schemes to restore the missing trust for all those harmed by the conspirator’s actions,” said Eric Jackson, Special Agent-In-Charge of the FBI Dallas Division.
Barker is the seventh of 21 defendants to formally plead guilty in the bribery scheme, designed to induce doctors to refer lucrative patients – particularly those with high-reimbursing, out-of-network private insurance – to the now-defunct hospital, as opposed to other facilities.
Instead of billing patients for out-of-network co-payments, instituted by insurers to de-incentivize the high costs associated with out-of-network treatment, Forest Park allegedly assured patients they would pay in-network prices. Because they knew insurers wouldn’t tolerate such practices, they concealed the patient discounts and wrote off the difference as uncollected “bad debt.”
According to prosecutors, Barker and his co-conspirators shelled out approximately $40 million in bribes, disguised as “marketing money” and funneled through a shell company, between 2009 and 2013. Because he performed surgeries at Forest Park, Barker received these so-called “marketing” payments as well.
He faces roughly five to seven years in federal prison. Sentencing has not yet been set.
Co-defendants Richard Ferdinand Toussaint, Jr., another Forest Park Founder, and Alan Andrew Beauchamp, the hospital manager, have pleaded guilty in the case, along with several others. The remaining defendants are awaiting trial early next year.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Defense – Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Office of Inspector General, and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Wirmani, Kate Pfeifle and Mark Tindall are prosecuting the case.