Former Merced area executive sentenced to prison, fined millions in health care scam

Sandra Haar, the former executive of several Merced area health clinics who pleaded guilty last year to fraud, was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a $6 million fine, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported.

Haar, 59, was the founder of Horisons Unlimited, a nonprofit health and dental corporation that operated a string of clinics serving thousands of low-income patients in the central San Joaquin Valley.

Haar’s sentence was handed down Monday in U.S. District Court in Fresno.

Her attorney, Paul Wolf, declined to comment on the case Tuesday.

Prosecutors said Haar “orchestrated” a scam to bill Medi-Cal and Medicare for services she knew were not reimbursable and profited more than $3.7 million from the scheme between 2014 and March 2017.

Haar billed for services that were not provided and for services that were “unnecessary,” authorities said.

Haar also falsified services that were received, including claiming some patients had been seen by licensed doctors when patients instead were given an opioid medication in the parking lot of McDonald’s and Rite Aid in plastic sandwich bags, according to court documents.

In July 2018, Haar accepted a deal and prosecutors agreed not to press charges against Haar’s daughter, Sara Price, her husband, Norman Haar and Karen Tlemcami, according to court records.

Haar formally pleaded guilty on Aug. 12, 2018.

The plea deal marked a departure for Haar, who, in an exclusive Sun-Star interview in 2018, denied wrongdoing.

Allegations against Haar surfaced publicly in lawsuits filed in March 2017, accusing her and her family of mismanagement.

Horisons filed for bankruptcy in May 2017.

A month later, patients reported several issues at Horisons, which left them in the dark about shortened clinic hours and canceled appointments as the nonprofit worked through bankruptcy proceedings.

Horisons officially closed its clinics on Aug. 1, 2017, leaving thousands of Central Valley residents without primary care.

Prosecutors said Haar was ordered to surrender Jan. 15 to begin her sentence.

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Vikaas Shanker is an award-winning reporter covering education, crime and courts for the Merced Sun-Star and Los Banos Enterprise. After growing up in Naperville, Illinois and graduating from the University of Kansas, he reported in several Chicago suburbs before moving to Merced County in 2016.