LAS VEGAS (AP) - A health care staffing firm and its former representative have been indicted in a federal antitrust case alleging they fixed wages of nurses caring for medically fragile public school students in the Las Vegas area, U.S. authorities said.
Ryan Hee, a former manager of Advantage On Call LLC, and the company now called VDA OC LLC were accused in documents filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas of conspiring with an unnamed competitor not to recruit or hire each other’s employee nurses and not to grant nurses pay increases.
No attorney for Hee was identified in the court record, and contact information was not immediately found for him and VDA OC.
A representative of VDA OC successor company Cross Country Healthcare Inc. said Wednesday the charges against Hee and VDA OC do not involve Cross Country or its subsidiaries.
The events alleged in the indictment occurred between October 2016 and July 2017, company Counsel Susan Ball said, the month that Cross Country acquired assets of what had been Advantage On Call.
The competitor in the August 2013 contract was referred to in the seven-page indictment as “Company A.”
The case involves an August 2013 contract with the Clark County School District, the nation’s fifth-largest, with more than 300,000 students at 336 school campuses in an area almost the size of New Jersey.
The nurses hired by the two companies were to provide constant care to eligible students, according to the indictment, including classroom time, in hallways and during meals, bus rides, field trips and other school activities.
School district spokesman Mauricio Marin said Tuesday he didn’t immediately know the value of the contract or the number of medically fragile students it involved. The school district is not a party in the criminal case.
A court date was not immediately set on the charge of conspiracy in restraint of trade, a Sherman Act violation that can result in 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for Hee and a fine of $100 million or more for the corporation.
Hee is accused of declaring in a 2016 email to an unidentified representative of Company A about refusing to negotiate wage increases with district nurses: “If anyone threatens us for more money, we will tell them to kick rocks!”
Richard Powers, acting assistant Attorney General, said in a Justice Department statement that conspiring to allocate employees and fix wages “robs American workers of higher pay and the ability to bargain for better, higher-paying jobs.”
This story updates that VDA OC successor company Cross Country Healthcare Inc. acquired assets of the company after events alleged in the indictment and is not involved in the case.
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