- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Doctors, practice settle billings case for $3.7M

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - An Elizabethtown medical practice and two owners have agreed to a $3.7 million settlement in a case stemming from a whistleblower lawsuit that alleged false billings for chemotherapy patients, federal authorities said Tuesday.

Federal and state officials contend that Dr. Rafiq Ur Rahman and Dr. Yusuf K. Deshmukh billed for unnecessary evaluations and, along with their practice, Elizabethtown Hematology Oncology, extended chemotherapy times so they could improperly bill Medicare, Medicaid and other government health care programs, the U.S. attorney’s office in Louisville said.

Attorneys for Rahman and Deshmukh did not immediately return phone messages left after hours Tuesday at their offices.

Some of the allegations were included in a whistleblower lawsuit brought by another physician, Dr. Ijaz Mahmood, who will receive more than $280,000 in the settlement.

Bowling Green attorney John Caudill, who represents Mahmood, said his client was in the same practice but left in 2011, when he brought the whistleblower action, and now practices solo.

Caudill said the case was about more than money.

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Smoking ban among priorities of 2014’s lobbyists

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A public smoking ban that failed to pass was among the top priorities of Kentucky’s highest paid lobbyists this year.

Overall, lobbyist spending declined slightly to $8.7 million - down from the record $8.8 million in 2012. Most of that money was for lobbyist salaries.

“It’s close to 90 percent of the expenditures or better is for salaries rather than for lavish parties or something like that,” Tony Wilhoit, executive director of the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, said Tuesday.

The smoking ban that would have prohibited lighting up in businesses, places of employment and some other public places never made it to a vote on the House floor and a similar bill failed in the Senate. No breakdown was available for how much of the total spending was on lobbying for and against the smoking ban. Lobbyists are required to report only on total spending.

Wilhoit said he expects lobbyist spending to increase in 2015 because of a new law that requires employers to report any money spent on advertising regarding legislation.

Kentucky’s top five lobbyists of the 2014 legislative session were:

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USA Harvest founder pleads guilty to fraud

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The founder of USA Harvest pleaded guilty Wednesday to tax evasion, mail fraud and money laundering after admitting that he spent donations to the charity on himself.

Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, 65-year-old Hugh “Stan” Curtis will pay his original organization, Kentucky Harvest, $183,354 in restitution and faces prison time when he’s sentenced on Sept. 4. Prosecutors are recommending a 24-month prison sentence.

Curtis had been scheduled to plead guilty in December 2012, but the hearing was delayed after questions about his competency. A judge found him competent in November.

Curtis told a federal judge on Tuesday he had memory issues, but understood the charges.

USA Harvest used volunteers to pick up surplus food from restaurants, hotels, hospitals and various other food suppliers and delivered it to missions, soup kitchens, shelters and people in need. Prosecutors said USA Harvest is no longer in business.

Scott Cox, the defense attorney for Curtis, said his client has no recollection of the events listed in the plea agreement, but understood the evidence against him and willingly pleaded guilty.

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Coal company cited after fish kill

HARLAN, Ky. (AP) - A coal company in eastern Kentucky has been cited for a chemical release that caused a fish kill along the Clover Fork branch of the Cumberland River.

Harlan County Emergency Management Director David McGill told the Harlan Daily Enterprise (http://bit.ly/1ktq8hS) that a resident near the waterway reported seeing several dead fish. McGill said he determined the problem stemmed from an area coal operation and notified state officials.

Kentucky Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection official Linda Potter said inspectors went to Harlan on Saturday to evaluate the situation.

She said the Harlan/Cumberland Coal Company over-treated with a chemical after a line break and that caused the fish kill. She said the company was cited for allowing the chemical to enter the stream.

“Basically, what happened there is a prep plant in Highsplint and one of the slurry lines broke between the prep plant and the impoundment. So, they put this chemical in and it causes the sediments to settle at the bottom of the sediment ponds. They over-treated with the chemical and that is what caused the fish kill.”

McGill said the problem has been corrected.

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