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80-year old pleads guilty to soliciting kickbacks, faces up to 20 years in prison

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Posted at 7:45 AM, Jan 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-12 07:45:20-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — A Jackson, Kentucky woman is facing up to 20 years in prison after admitting in federal court that she solicited kickbacks from a toxicology laboratory in exchange for urine drug testing referrals, lied to law enforcement agents about the kickback she received and then attempted to cover up the kickback by requesting the alteration of certain financial records.

Theresa. C. Merced, 80, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act (EKRA), one count of making false statements and one count of attempted tampering with records before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Danny C. Reeves.

Merced, who was the office manager of a substance abuse treatment clinic in Jackson, Ky, admitted that the CEO of a toxicology lab delivered a $4,000 check as part of a larger package of promised inducements. Merced cashed the check, and, when questioned about the check by law enforcement agents in September, she denied knowledge of it, and stated that the $4,000 was probably a loan from the lab CEO to her husband. Shortly after her interview with the agents concluded, Merced called the lab CEO and asked that he alter the lab’s financial records so that the entry for the $4,000 check would say “rent/loan,” consistent with the lie she told the agents.

The EKRA, which is aimed to combat the opioid crisis, prohibits the solicitation or receipt of kickbacks in the exchange for the referral of urine drug testing services. Merced's EKRA conviction is believed to be the first in the nation.

Merced is scheduled to be sentenced on May 1, 2020.