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Man sentenced for health care scam

Ernest L. Sleeth received 30 months in prison for helping his company defraud Medicare and Medicaid.

By Times Staff Writer
Published July 26, 2003

TAMPA - One of the main players in a $14-million health care scam was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Friday.

Ernest L. Sleeth of Dover also received two years probation and was ordered to pay $14.4-million in restitution to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Sleeth, 48, was charged last year in a 55-count indictment that alleged he conspired with others to submit false claims to Medicare and Medicaid in the 1990s in connection with the sale of durable medical equipment such as motorized wheelchairs.

The charges, for the most part, related to Sleeth's role as the accountant and bookkeeper for a group of companies commonly known as Gold Star, according to federal authorities.

Sleeth helped run the companies with Barry Haught and others. Haught pleaded guilty in May 2002, and was sentenced in March to seven years in prison.

The investigation has also netted guilty pleas from Phillip Lipsey of Orlando, James Taylor of Georgia, Dennis E. Rodriguez of Odessa, John C. Merlino of Tampa, John S. Bidelspach of Palm Harbor, Fred D. Ford Jr., of Tampa, Renee LaChance Hunter Livio of Spring Hill, Cherry E. Moody of Tampa, Christopher C. Stursberg of Wesley Chapel and Thomas W. Nespeca of Tampa.

Most received some sort of probation.

Teresa Martinez of Tampa was convicted at trial and sentenced to 51 months in prison.

[Last modified July 26, 2003, 02:18:07]

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