The owner of a Glendale medical testing laboratory who was recently extradited from the Philippines has pleaded guilty to defrauding the Medicare program by submitting bills for blood testing that was never performed.
Ernesto Penaflorida, 57, who formerly resided in Glendale, pleaded guilty Monday afternoon before United States District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew.
In a plea agreement, Penaflorida admitted that he and others associated with his company, Medstat Clinical Laboratory, submitted bills to Medicare and Medi-Cal for services that were never performed. In particular, the false claims indicated that the following tests, among others, had been conducted by Medstat: RBC Protoporphyrin (a test that detects iron deficiency and lead poisoning), Thin Layer Chromatography (a test used to detect drug metabolytes), Chemiluminescent Assay (a test useful in the identification of chlamydia and tuberculosis), and Sedimentation Rate (a test used to measure inflammation and infection in rheumatism patients ). Not only did Medstat fail to complete the blood tests, it did not have the ability to perform these tests.
From January 1997 until about May 1998, Medstat submitted approximately $2.2 million in fraudulent bills, and Medicare paid approximately $1.3 million of those claims.
Judge Lew is scheduled to sentence Penaflorida on February 2. The charge of health care fraud carries a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.