Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Veteran prosecutor describes SoCal as 'epicenter' of Medicare fraud

Medicare "fraudsters" often don't even bother setting up a fake clinic — they simply use a post office box.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

Last week, a federal judge in Los Angeles sentenced the the ringleader of a $9 million Medicare fraud scheme to 18 months in prison, and ordered him to reimburse the federal government. Estill Mitts, 68, was a Vietnam War veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart who apologized for his actions — even as he sought to minimize his role in the operation that including recruiting bogus patients from Skid Row.

“We’ve encountered numerous defendants who would never think to steal from any other commercial business, but literally don’t see that much wrong from stealing from the Medicare or Medical program," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Consuelo Woodhead.

The veteran prosecutor specializes in healthcare fraud, and says there are reasons Southern California is a hotbed of such activity.

“There are many, many elderly people here," she said.  "And there are many people on Medi-Cal, which is California’s Medicaid program. Both of them are very vulnerable to fraud."


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Report finds 'deeply challenging' labor market in California

Unemployed Americans line up to enter a job fair in El Monte, Calif. Most California counties still face double digit unemployment, according to a new report by the California Budget Project, which finds more than two out of five unemployed Californians have been looking for a job for at least half a year.
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

A report by the California Budget Project says the addition of 750,00 jobs over the past three years has still left much of the state in double-digit unemployment.  

"California still has a job market in which too many workers can't obtain full-time jobs that pay a good wage," said Luke Reidenbach, policy analyst with the non-partisan CBP and the report's author. "California's emerging recovery is not providing the mix of jobs needed for a robust economic rebound that benefits the full range of workers and their families."

Among the group’s findings: The share of unemployed Californians who have been seeking work for six months or longer is down only slightly from a record high, and stands at 43 percent. The report also found men have fared better than women. During the past three years of overall job growth, employment among prime-working-age men – ages 25 to 54 – has increased, as it dropped slightly for women in the same age group.


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New Los Angeles police commissioners asked to focus on communities

Councilman Bernard Parks, the former chief of the LAPD, wants the new police commissioners to focus on supporting communities beyond traditional police work.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

Four new appointees to the Los Angeles Police Commission by Mayor Eric Garcetti were confirmed Friday by the Los Angeles City Council. And with crime down, the new commissioners were asked to focus on community relations.

Civic leader Steve Soboroff, law professor Kathleen Kim, L.A. Sparks CEO Paula Madison and nonprofit leader Sandra Figueroa-Villa were unanimously confirmed. It's a city council that includes a former LAPD senior lead officer, a reserve cop and the former chief of police, Bernard Parks. He wants the new commission to be more vocal about state bills that could impact underserved areas.

"It's just not about arresting people and booking them. There are so many community ills that the police department addresses that they clearly should be taking a stand on – a much broader variety of legislative issues that impact the communities they serve," Parks said. 


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Three leaders of bankrupt San Bernardino head to recall ballot

Longtime San Bernardino city attorney James Penman will face a recall election in November.
Steven Cuevas
Extra Audio:

Three leaders in the bankrupt city of San Bernardino will find their names on recall ballots in November.

Recall organizers who became weary of the city's financial and political turmoil had originally targeted nearly every elected leader.  Ultimately, they found support to put City Attorney James Penman and council members Wendy McCammack and John Valdivia on the recall ballot.

Voters in this city of 213,000 will have the chance to replace most of their elected officials when they go to the polls November 5. That's because another three people on the seven-member council are up for election. Voters will also choose a new mayor from 11 candidates.

This week, a federal judge ruled that the city is eligible to seek bankruptcy protection.



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Maven's Morning Coffee: Jerry Brown's legacy, Vernon's audit, a breakdown of LA's racial groups

Rolling Stone did a sitdown with Gov. Jerry Brown. It follows other flattering pieces in The Atlantic and The New York Times.
Andrew Nixon/Capital Public Radio

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, votes and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

The Maven's Morning Coffee is also available as a daily email. Click here to subscribe.

Today is Friday, Aug. 30, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:


Rolling Stone spends some time with Gov. Jerry Brown. "No longer thinking of his post as a steppingstone to higher office, Brown is instead determined to craft a durable legacy – the capstone to more than four decades of public service. His foulmouthed motto? 'I want to get shit done.'" Capitol Alert calls the piece (along with some other recent articles) "flattery from afar."

Vernon city officials are conducting a forensic audit of their former city administrator's compensation, reports the Los Angeles Times. "The new openness has intrigued prosecutors. They complained bitterly that Vernon withheld key information during the district attorney's investigation into (Bruce) Malkenhorst, who at the height of his power rode around in a limousine and regularly played 18 holes of golf on the city's dime," according to The Times.


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