The manager of a Florida nursing home where eight people died following Hurricane Irma has a history of health-care fraud accusations.
Federal court records show the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami filed civil charges in 2004 against Dr. Jack Michel and Larkin Health Systems, among others. That company owns The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which had eight patients pronounced dead Wednesday.
In 1997, before Michel owned Larkin, federal prosecutors say he was part of a kickback scheme that involved paying doctors for referrals and admission to Larkin Community Hospital. Prosecutors say that after he bought the hospital in 1998, Michel and others fraudulently increased the number of patients at the facility, along with their Medicare and Medicaid revenues, by bringing in patients from nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
The case was settled in 2006 for $15.4 million.
The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills said in a statement Wednesday that Hurricane Irma had knocked out a transformer that powered its air conditioning. The incident raised fears about the safety of Florida's 4 million senior citizens amid power outages that could last for days.
After the outage, five women and three men ranging in age from 70 to 99 died at the Rehabilitation Center.
Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths were heat-related, and added: "The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation."
Gov. Rick Scott called on Florida emergency workers to immediately check on all nursing homes to make sure patients are safe, and he vowed to punish anyone found culpable in the deaths.
"This situation is unfathomable," he said.