Doctor sentenced to 1 year in prison for $1 million fraud
Share with others:
Before a packed federal courtroom today, a Penn Hills doctor who admitted to submitting more than $1 million in false insurance claims to Medicare and private insurers over a five-year period was sentenced to a year behind bars.
Dr. John Kristofic, 62, who lives in Shadyside but practiced medicine in Penn Hills, had already paid $3.3 million to the government as part of a guilty plea in January.
He shut down his practice on May 1 and will almost certainly lose his medical license.
Prosecutors said Dr. Kristofic, who has been accused of healthcare fraud before, submitted false claims for services he never rendered between 2003 and 2008.
Chief U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose said that the doctor, an internal medicine specialist, was a "puzzle" to her. On one hand, she received 60 letters of support from people extolling his virtues in providing care to addicts and the homeless in Pittsburgh and to the sick and destitute in Haiti.
But she also said he had committed serious healthcare fraud, a felony offense in which "everyone suffers" at a time when healthcare costs are a national issue.
"It's cheating," she said. "It's stealing."
What's more, she and the government noted, Dr. Kristofic has been accused of similar conduct in the past, which led to a federal conviction in 1991. In the 1980s, he was accused in a civil case brought under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of submitting false bills at his practice and using the proceeds to invest in commercial real estate.
After reaching a settlement, he filed a claim to collect reimbursement he felt was owed him. As part of settlement negotiations in that case, he had to submit a disclosure of his assets. But the government said he lied on that form by failing to reveal more than $100,000 he had in various bank accounts.
In 1991, he pleaded guilty in federal court to filing the false form.
Despite his past brushes with the law, he only lost his medical license for about a month.
Now, his days of practicing are probably over, Judge Ambrose said.
But she did give him a substantial break. She could have sent Dr. Kristofic to prison for three years. But she granted him leniency because of his good works in the community.
First Published May 5, 2010 12:27 pm