Crime

Texas medical equipment scam traded on Cerner’s reputation

The message a Cerner Corp. employee received at his Kansas City office on June 21, 2013, seemed odd.

A Dallas Medical Center facilities director wanted help installing an MRI machine purchased through Cerner. The subcontractor crew supposedly in charge of readying the $1.3 million machine for patients had stopped returning calls.

The caller must be confused, the Cerner employee thought. The next day, the Cerner employee called the manager back with some bad news: Cerner didn’t sell the hospital the MRI machine.

And with that, one of the most elaborate fraud schemes charged in Kansas City federal court in recent memory began to unravel.

All those emails and invoices the medical center believed had come from Cerner were forgeries, the hospital’s chief executive determined with help from real Cerner executives.

Soon, FBI agents began interviewing the doctors who’d written glowing testimonials encouraging the purchase.

Turns out, those were forgeries, too.

“There is no way in hell I wrote that email,” one Dallas physician fumed. “How stupid!”

Backtracking through an almost impenetrable web of shell companies, bank accounts and Internet domains, FBI agents found their target: Albert Davis, 54, of Richardson, Texas.

Federal prosecutors on Friday announced that they had charged Davis with pretending to be an employee of Cerner Corp. to filch more than $1 million from the Dallas Medical Center and its parent company, Prime Healthcare Services.

Cerner declined to comment on the wire fraud case against Davis. But prosecutors praised the company for reacting quickly once it realized that suspected fraud artists were trading on its reputation.

“As soon as Cerner employees became aware of this incident, they immediately notified representatives at the hospital and contacted law enforcement to provide information central to the investigation and the prosecution of this case,” U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson said in a written statement.

Davis made a court appearance Thursday in Tyler, Texas, and remains in federal custody. On Friday, federal prosecutors in Texas announced perjury charges against Davis for using some of those same forged Cerner documents as the basis of his testimony in a civil trial last year.

Davis operated a network of medical technology companies and once had worked with Cerner to create a genuine quote to sell a magnetic resonance imaging scanner to the Dallas Medical Center, according to the affidavit.

Cerner, however, stepped away from the deal in October 2012, and Davis pursued it on his own, without telling the hospital that the Kansas City company no longer was participating, prosecutors alleged.

Davis and several uncharged accomplices then persuaded the hospital’s chief executive that they worked for Cerner and would sell the hospital a cutting-edge MRI machine for $1.3 million, court records said.

They allegedly supported the ruse with personal meetings, forged business cards and a blizzard of emails and documents sent from an Internet domain that closely resembled that used by real Cerner employees.

Davis and his accomplices purportedly were careful about giving their scheme a thin Kansas City patina, even though there’s not a lot of evidence they spent much time here.

They used cellphones with an 816 area code to communicate with their Dallas targets and arranged to have mail sent to them at a building that features “virtual office space” near Union Station.

That mail, the FBI learned, simply was forwarded back to Texas.

And to give the ploy the real tang of authenticity, they assumed the names and identities of some real Cerner employees, although the email addresses and cellphone numbers they gave to the hospital employees routed instead back to Davis and his accomplices, court records alleged.

In November and December 2012, Prime Healthcare Services deposited more than $1 million in what prosecutors described as a “fake” Cerner bank account.

The hospital company withheld a third payment after Davis did not finish installing the MRI machine delivered to Dallas. Hospital employees contacted the real Cerner company, which spotted the fraudulent emails and documents, court records alleged.

Davis’ perjury case alleges that he used forged Cerner documents to win a $25 million judgment against three companies. Those companies’ lawyers eventually learned of the bogus documents and in May asked a federal judge to set aside the judgment.

That same day, Davis’ own civil attorneys moved to withdraw from the case, saying that Davis had confessed to them that the Cerner documents used to win the judgment were “not authentic,” court records said.

To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to mmorris@kcstar.com.

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