Ambulance Service Accused Of Fraud

Thursday, March 13th 2008, 10:21 pm
By: News On 6

They're supposed to provide life-saving services to Green Country, now the company's CEO faces federal fraud charges. 

A grand jury indicted Illinois-based Mercy Regional Emergency Health Services and its CEO Clayton Hobbs.  Hobbs also heads an Oklahoma ambulance services company, Mercy Regional of Oklahoma.  It operates in five Oklahoma counties, servicing Vinita, Fairfax, Cleveland and Stroud.

The company also provides back-up in Owasso.

The News On 6's Ashli Sims reports people from Mercy Regional of Oklahoma insist their company is separate from Mercy Regional of Illinois.  And they say in Illinois is where the legal troubles will stay.

Mercy Regional Emergency Health Services and Mercy Regional of Oklahoma have similar names, the same CEO. They even link to one another by the same website.  But Mercy Regional of Oklahoma insists the two companies are not one in the same.

"We are a completely separate different entity and our communities and our customers will be served without any problem at all," said Jim Koch, Mercy Regional of Oklahoma.

Mercy Regional in Illinois is facing big problems.

The Illinois company and CEO Clayton Hobbs are accused of bilking Medicaid and Medicare out of almost $95,000 from June 2004 to December 2006.

"Anything that should occur in Mercy Regional Illinois would not occur, would not affect Mercy Regional of Oklahoma in any way," said Koch.

Koch says that's because the Oklahoma outfit is owned by a completely different company, Centurion Health Systems.  But according to state health records, Centurion is based out of Benton, Illinois, the same home-base as Mercy Regional in Illinois.

"When we first started the company they were also running the company the board of Centurion Health Systems out of the Illinois division until they moved to Oklahoma," said Koch.

One thing that was clearly not separate, Hobbs' roles until recently, he served as CEO for Mercy Regional in Illinois and in Oklahoma.

"Mr. Hobbs is an officer of Centurion Health Systems. He is on the board. He is currently on administrative leave. And he will remain on administrative leave until this matter is cleared up," said Koch.

Koch says none of this will have any effect on Oklahoma customers.

"If Mercy Regional Illinois was to dissolve, we would still be in operation, because we are a division of Centurion Health Systems. We are out there servicing them. They have nothing to worry about," said Koch.

Mercy Regional in Illinois is also accused of not paying its employees and lying to them about their benefits.

Mercy Regional in Oklahoma says they're making payroll and fully-funding benefits for employees.

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