Two named in indictment

Wednesday, May 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A federal grand jury has returned a two-count indictment naming former Deputy Health Commissioner Brent Van Meter and Oklahoma nursing home owner-operator James R. Smart, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Wednesday.

The indictment accused them of bribery in connection with a state program receiving federal funds. Van Meter was arrested May 2. He was fired two days later.

A grand jury met Tuesday to hear evidence in the case.

The indictment accused Van Meter of agreeing to accept money from Smart on April 17 in an attempt by Smart to influence Van Meter to alter Health Department records. The change would have allowed certain nursing homes operated by Smart to be compensated by federal health programs at a higher rate than he would have otherwise received.

Smart is accused of "knowingly and corruptly" offering and agreeing to give Van Meter money in connection with the transaction.

The men could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

U.S. Attorney Dan Webber said the criminal investigation into activity at the State Health Department is continuing and more charges are expected as the investigation of the nursing home case progresses.

Smart is vice president of Seminole Estates Inc. in Seminole. His brother John Smart of Wewoka is listed as president of the company. Both have a 39.5 percent share in the nursing home.

The two also have interest in six other nursing homes: Colonial Park Nursing Home in Okemah, Meeker Nursing Center in Meeker, Harrah Nursing Center in Harrah, Lake Drive Home in Henryetta, McLoud Nursing Center in McLoud and Wewoka Nursing Home in Wewoka.

Seminole Estates was listed on the federal grand jury subpoena seeking records from the state Health Department.

The state Health Department is responsible for inspecting nursing homes in Oklahoma.