Venkateswara Kuchipudi of Illinois became the fifth physician and 10th defendant overall to be convicted for taking part in the massive Medicare and Medicaid fraud scheme at the now-shuttered Sacred Heart Hospital.

He was convicted after a five-week trial on one count of conspiracy to defraud the US and nine counts of illegally soliciting or receiving benefits in return for referrals of patients covered under a federal health care programme.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a USD 250,000 fine. US District Judge Matthew Kennelly scheduled a sentencing hearing for June.

From 2001 through April 2013, hospital executives conspired to pay kickbacks and bribes to physicians to induce them to refer patients for services that would be reimbursed by federal insurance programme Medicare and Medicaid.

The scheme earned the financially struggling hospital millions of dollars in reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid. Evidence at Kuchipudi's trial revealed that he was one of the hospital's most prolific sources of patient referrals.

In exchange for his referrals, the hospital provided Kuchipudi with free labour in the form of physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

The hospital allowed Kuchipudi to bill Medicare and Medicaid for the services of the physician assistants and nurse practitioners as if he employed them himself.

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