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Charges name 4th executive at Columbia/HCA

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Nearly a year after bringing fraud charges against three executives with Columbia/HCA Health-care Corp., federal prosecutors filed a new indictment Wednesday naming a fourth company executive as a participant in an illegal scheme to defraud federal health programs.

The fourth executive, Carl Lynn Dick, finance director for Columbia's Central Eastern division, was charged in the superseding indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in Tampa, Fla. There was little surprising in the new charges: Prosecutors earlier this year had announced that they would file new charges in the case.But the charges do offer new details about what prosecutors believe was a complex scheme to cheat programs like Medicare through the misrepresentation of certain costs at Columbia's Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte, Fla. Through documents known as cost reports, hospitals are able to obtain partial reimbursement for costs related to patient care.

The new charges also describe the role played in the preparation of cost reports by Fawcett's accountants, KPMG Peat Marwick. KPMG - which was not charged in the indictment with any wrongdoing - is repeatedly described in the new indictment as participating in meetings at which efforts by the hospital to benefit from inaccurate expense claims were discussed.

While the charges filed Wednesday relate only to activities at Fawcett, government officials are investigating allegations of fraud involving cost report filings from Columbia hospitals around the country. In the raids last year, the government seized cost reports and related records from Columbia hospitals in at least seven states.