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Oak Brook doctor convicted in Sacred Heart kickback scheme

Evidence presented at trial established patients were transported far distances to Sacred Heart, even when the nursing homes were closer to hospitals with more comprehensive facilities. | Sun-Times file photo

An Oak Brook doctor was convicted Friday for illegally receiving benefits in exchange for referring elderly patients to Sacred Heart Hospital on the West Side.

Doctor Venkateswara R. Kuchipudi, 69, was convicted on one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and nine counts of illegally soliciting or receiving benefits in return for patient referrals, according to a statement the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sacred Heart Hospital, which closed in 2013 after a federal law enforcement search, gave Kuchipudi “free labor in the form of physician assistants and nurse practitioners,” within the hospital and Chicago-area nursing homes, and allowed him to bill Medicare and Medicaid for these services, according to the statement.

Evidence presented at trial established that Kuchipudi and Sacred Heart arranged for his patients to be transported far distances to Sacred Heart, even when the nursing homes were closer to hospitals with more “comprehensive facilities,” according to the statement.

Kuchipudi is the tenth person convicted in a multi-year investigation in Sacred Heart Hospital. Former convictions include Edward Novak, the hospital’s owner and chief executive officer; Roy Payawal, the chief financial officer; Clarence Nagelvoort and Anthony J. Puorro, chief operating officers; and four other physicians, according to the statement.

Kuchipudi faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 2.