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updated: 9/8/2011 1:27 PM

Suburban men charged with Medicare fraud

S. Barrington doctor, Vernon Hills administrator caught in nationwide sweep

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A South Barrington physician and a Vernon Hills nursing home administrator are among those indicted on federal charges of Medicare fraud.

Wednesday's announcement comes on the heels of a nationwide crackdown by the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services that resulted in charges against 91 defendants from around the country who authorities say submitted more than $295 million in fraudulent Medicare claims.

The announcement follows indictments filed in federal court last week charging owners of six suburban chiropractic clinics with bilking health insurance companies of more than $18 million over 10 years.

"The defendants charged in this takedown are accused of stealing precious taxpayer resources and defrauding Medicare -- jeopardizing the integrity of our health care system and our nation's most critical health care program -- for personal gain," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a prepared statement.

Among those indicted is Dr. John Natale, 62, of South Barrington. He faces charges of health care fraud, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and mail fraud, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Both charges carry a maximum fine of $250,000.

A vascular surgeon, Natale had privileges at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights from December 1985 until he resigned from the staff in February 2005, a hospital spokesman said.

Authorities say that between August 2002 and October 30, 2004, Natale prepared false reports describing medical procedures that did not take place and made it appear on the reports that he performed procedures more complicated than the ones he actually performed. Additionally, Natale submitted claims for the repair of various aneurysms, surgery he did not perform, authorities said. Authorities allege that Natale used the proceeds from the fraudulently obtained Medicare payments for his own benefit, but did not indicate an amount.

Hospital officials are looking into whether Natale's alleged behavior affected any patient's care or recovery, the spokesman said.

Jay Canastra, admissions director at The Wealshire, a Lincolnshire nursing home, was also indicted on charges that in 2009, he accepted a $1,600 kickback in exchange for referring Wealshire Medicare patients to a West Dundee health care agency. Federal law makes it illegal to receive money in return for a Medicare referral. It carries a possible five-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine.

There is no indication that nursing home officials or employees were aware of the alleged kickback, authorities said. A Wealshire representative said he could not comment on Canastra's employment status.

Wednesday's announcement follows last week's 23-count federal indictment on charges of health care fraud against suburban chiropractors Bradley Mattson, 49, of Lake Forest; Steven Paul, 40, of Northbrook, and Neelesh Patel, 36, of Glenview. The trio operated clinics in Vernon Hills, Schaumburg, Bloomingdale and Lake in the Hills, while Mattson and Paul operated clinics in Niles and Norridge, authorities said. The complaint alleges that they defrauded health-insurance providers of more than $18 million for unnecessary services or services that they did not provide.

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