Doctor and wife sentenced for fraudulent billing

Posted: Sunday, June 22, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) An Anchorage doctor and his wife have been sentenced on federal health care fraud convictions.

Dr. Jay Van Houten and his wife, Ida, were sentenced Friday to three months in jail and three months of home confinement.

The doctor and nurse abused their patients' trust, U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Beistline said.

As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors had recommended a sentence of one month in jail and five months of home detention for Ida Van Houten, who pleaded guilty to one felony charge of double billing and one felony charge of billing for services not given. They recommended six months of home detention for Jay Van Houten, who admitted to a misdemeanor count of making false statements connected to the fraud.

Their actions suggest ''just plain greed,'' Beistline said.

The judge said the doctor was just as responsible for the fraudulent billings as his wife, who oversaw the bookkeeping for the medical practice.

Both apologized in court.

The judge said he also took into account their two young children. He staggered the dates for their jail sentences so one parent could be at home while the other was in jail.

Beistline ordered the couple to pay $28,458 in restitution, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Ida Van Houten was fined an additional $10,000 and her husband was ordered to pay an extra $7,500.

The Van Houtens agreed to pay an additional $190,000 in a civil settlement with the government based on Ida Van Houten falsely claiming acupuncture services as physical therapy to insurance companies, assistant U.S. attorney Lane Tucker said.

Ray Brown, Ida Van Houten's lawyer, argued that the massive fines were sufficient punishment. John Murtagh argued for Jay Van Houten that his client tried to stop the fraud but couldn't.

Jay Van Houten had his license summarily suspended in August after the state medical board determined he had overprescribed narcotics that contributed to the deaths of at least two patients. The board said he posed a danger to public safety.

The suspension came one month after the Van Houtens were indicted on 84 charges accusing them of bilking insurance companies out of nearly $90,000, federal prosecutors said.

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