OAKLAND, Calif. - A doctor in Oakland is facing up to 30 years in prison after being found guilty of accepting kickbacks for patient referrals, health care fraud, and false statements relating to health care, federal prosecutors said.
A jury convicted Henry Geoffrey Watson of 25 counts of various fraud charges for engaging in three healthcare kickback schemes from 2013 to 2019 while being a licensed medical doctor, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California said in a statement Wednesday.
One of the schemes the 67-year-old Watson was involved in was agreeing to refer patients to home health agency Amity Home Health Care in exchange for illegal kickback payments. Prosecutors said Watson and employees of Amity and its CEO, Amanda Singh, conspired to pay the doctor regular and recurring amounts, sometimes in the form of cash payments of $3,000 a month, to ensure that he referred Medicare patients to Amity each month.
Watson also accepted kickback payments from an undercover FBI agent posing as a home health agency representative seeking his agreement to refer his patients to a particular Bay Area home health agency. He was caught on video accepting envelopes of cash, for a total of more than $10,000, at four meetings in 2017.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Watson also suggested other doctors who he believed would be willing to accept illegal payments for referrals from the undercover agent.
His third scheme involved a conspiracy between him and others to repeatedly and falsely certify individuals for Medicare-funded home health services that were unnecessary for patients. Prosecutors said Watson and his co-conspirators met elderly residents of Bay Area retirement homes and certified these elderly people as homebound, or that they had a normal inability to leave the home.
However, evidence showed he knew that the patients were not homebound and did not need the services he prescribed. Prosecutors said Watson did not give any test or inquiry about whether they were homebound.
The U.S. Attorney's Office asserted that these elderly residents were homebound despite testimonies from these individuals and their regular primary care doctors that they were generally healthy and active, and even engaging in activities such as traveling internationally, shopping, walking stairs, and jogging.
Watson also falsely billed Medicare for certifying these individuals for home health and for supposedly supervising their home health care. Prosecutors said he was paid illegal kickbacks of $100 per patient referral by a co-conspirator working for the three home health agencies.
Besides the prison time, Watson is also facing $850,000 in fines, prosecutors said. He remains released on bond before his sentencing on Feb. 28, 2024.
Five of his co-conspirators, including Singh, have already been charged and sentenced for criminal kickback charges.