Medical oversight questioned
In 2009, prosecutors filed charges against the leaders of Immaculate Care Center in Los Angeles' Koreatown for billing for bogus care.
A counselor told criminal investigators that Oliver, the medical director there, signed stacks of patient files in 10 minutes without reviewing them. Oliver said the accusation was a lie and he wasn't charged in the case. The clinic's leader, Godday Imakavar, pleaded guilty to fraud and was banned from billing Medicaid.
Oliver told CIR and CNN that he didn't know Imakavar had been convicted, but he said he quit because he heard the L.A. clinic was billing for "ghost patients" who didn't show up for counseling. Still, Oliver said he didn't have any concerns about returning to work for Immaculate Care's other office in Riverside County.
In a January interview, he said Imakavar still was running the show there. The clinic's lawyer said Imakavar is on the board in an advisory role only.
"I think they do excellent work," Oliver said. "And as far as I can see, they're legitimate. I don't think he's running a scam."
Oliver's own work at Immaculate Care caught the attention of a Riverside County investigator.
Rick Smith, now retired, found Oliver's signatures on files missing key information, like the patient's medical history, he said. He remembers spotting paperwork initially missing Oliver's signature, then later signed and backdated.
"If he's backdating signatures, that's illegal," Smith said.
Oliver would sign pretty much anything, according to Rosario Falconer, an intern counselor at Immaculate Care this year until she quit in July. Patient files with the wrong name on them. Treatment plans drawn up for a man in the file of a woman. Copied-and-pasted treatment plans.
"I know that he signed whatever we put out there," she said, "even if it was wrong."
Oliver denied backdating documents. He said he wouldn't sign anything that looked "askew," but asked, "How do I know" if others have botched patient files?
Problems popped up at other clinics where Oliver worked, too. Auditors in Los Angeles County reported that they had found a few of them billing for patients who didn't have addictions at all.
And this year, the Justice Department charged the operators of Vine Care Center, another Inland Empire clinic. The fraud complaint alleges in part that "essential medical assessments to ensure that patients received meaningful care did not occur." Oliver, the medical director, was not charged.
Prosecutors didn't target Oliver in the Immaculate Care or Vine Care cases because they didn't have evidence that he was aware of the fraud, said Justice Department spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill. Oliver said investigators never interviewed him.
Smith, who audited both clinics for the county, said he thinks Oliver should have been held accountable.
"It needs to be that these guys know, from the doctors on up and down, that they just can't do this stuff and get away with it," Smith said.
One medical director who did get snared in a fraud prosecution is Dr. Cuthbert Pyne. The doctor, now 84, was an easy target: He admitted to criminal investigators in 2009 that he didn't review his patients' medical records and might have signed some blank documents at New Beginnings Recovery Treatment Center in South Los Angeles.
Pyne continued working for two other L.A. clinics that received more than $5 million in funding in the fiscal year ending in 2011. Pyne resigned from the clinics that year, his attorney said. Last summer, he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor fraud charge.
Like Oliver, Pyne relied on the integrity of clinic operators, said his lawyer, Tracy Green.
"He's very trusting," Green said. "He tried to take responsibility for what he did, spoke to investigators and said, 'I might have signed some of these blank (forms), trusting they'd do this properly.' "
Past run-ins with state authorities
Regulators also found blank client admission forms with Oliver's signature on them. Saying the practice "opens the door to potential fraudulent billing practices," a state official reported it to the medical board in 2007. Oliver said the signatures were not his -- they were forged or pasted onto a blank form.
The complaint came from Rebecca Lira, then deputy director at the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, the state agency that oversaw Drug Medi-Cal until last year. She wrote that Oliver never performed physical exams, raising "a serious concern that patients are not being appropriately assessed ... and that Dr. Oliver is compromising the quality of care for these patients."
Lira now works for a chain of private methadone clinics. But she helped develop the state's regulations decades ago.