Back in late October, headlines were made when Los Angeles authorities arrested a group of doctors for using homeless and mentally ill patients to fraudulently bilk Medicare and Medi-Cal for millions. Little noted locally, though, was that one of the doctors, Eleanor Melo Santiago Arthur, was an Irvine resident. And not noted so far until now was that on Thursday, the California Medical Board suspended Santiago's medical license as a condition of her release pending the resolution of that investigation.
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And what wasn't noted at all was that Santiago was already under investigation by the Medical Board for giving out one too many free electric wheelchairs.
On July 20 of this year, the Medical Board filed an accusation against Santiago alleging 16 counts of gross negligence, incompetence, and repeated negligent acts; if she was found guilty, the board sought to revoke or suspend her license and deny her the authority to supervise assistants. The heart of the matter dealt with four patients who went to Santiago's offices complaining of various maladies only to leave with a free electric wheelchair that she charged to Medicare. The Medical Board alleges that Santiago used the promise of a free electric wheelchair to get more patients into her Los Angeles clinic, no matter how far away they lived. One patient who lived in Paso Robles, according to documents obtained by the Weekly, learned of the free wheelchair giveaway after people in her neighborhood who obtained one told her of the offer; she received a free car ride to Santiago's clinic, where Santiago gave her a wheelchair.
Another patient mentioned in the accusation lived in Wasco, 137 miles away from Los Angeles. A woman told him that Santiago was giving out free wheelchairs to people who would go to her clinic. The patient, according to the complaint, " did not need [a wheelchair] but agreed because his wife may need one since she had trouble walking long distnces. Two women picked him up in a van with two other patiens who were coming from different cities and drove them to [Santiago's] clinic."
Santiago is free on bond but had her passport seized by authorities. No court date is set for her arraignment.