A federal whistle-blower lawsuit alleges the Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services Authority received illegal kickback payments from the parent company of Sunstar Paramedics, which runs the county's ambulance services.
The lawsuit alleges Paramedics Plus, the parent company of Sunstar, engaged in an illegal kickback scheme in Pinellas County and ambulance authorities in California and Oklahoma. The whistle-blower lawsuit was filed in 2014 by former Paramedics Plus executive Stephen Dean in the Eastern District of Texas, but only recently unsealed by a judge in January.
"As a strategy to win and keep exclusive contracts for the referral of patients for emergency ambulance and paramedic services, Paramedics Plus has offered and paid, and ambulance authorities, including (Pinellas County) have accepted and received illegal kickbacks," the lawsuit said.
The kickbacks, according to the suit, were often referred to as "rebates," "gain sharing" and "profits in excess of a cap." They came from Paramedics Plus' portion of what it collected from government health care programs, according to the suit, which was "paid directly to the ambulance authorities." In Pinellas County, Dean's suit alleged that there were kickbacks given to the ambulance authority when "profits exceeded 9 percent annually."
Officials from Paramedics Plus and Pinellas County could not be reached for comment.