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Ex-soldier, doctor to plead guilty in Army medical center fraud case

SAN ANTONIO — A former chief administrator at Brooke Army Medical Center's radiology department and a doctor who once worked there plan to plead guilty this week to charges that they rigged $8 million in military contracts.

Retired Army Master Sgt. Lawrence Peter Fenti, 42, of New Braunfels, Texas, and Dr. Heidi L. Webster, 50, of Kansas have signed plea deals in a federal case that alleges the two conspired to take advantage of rules that give preference to small, disadvantaged businesses. Documents state the two secretly steered the bulk of work performed under $8.15 million in contracts to companies run by Webster: MRI Resources Inc., or MRIR, and Pro Veteran Staffing Inc.

Fenti and Webster are expected to formally plead guilty Thursday before Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In addition, Fenti has agreed to plead guilty to accepting a bribe, and Webster has agreed to plead guilty to giving him a bribe.

They face up to five years in prison for the conspiracy charges and up to 15 years in prison for the bribery counts.

The contracts were for magnetic resonance imaging gear, technicians, hub buildings, ancillary buildings, support staff and other services.

Fenti was the noncommissioned officer in charge of BAMC's radiology department from 2006 to 2008. Later, he was the noncommissioned officer overseeing matters affecting the department's Base Realignment and Closure process.

From 1995 to about 2003, Webster was a radiologist at BAMC. She went on to Irwin Army Community Hospital at Fort Riley, Kan., where she retired as a major in 2006 to contract with the Army — providing radiology services at Irwin.

Court papers said she exploited her friendship with Fenti and others at BAMC in a scheme that also involved co-defendant John Walter Hoffman, 43, and others who were not charged. Hoffman ran Hoffman Surgical Devices Inc. in San Antonio. He is awaiting trial.

Court papers say Fenti and Webster used a small, disadvantaged business, Data Dynamics Inc. of Grafton, N.D., as the prime contractor, to disguise that Webster's entities were getting the work. No one with that company has been charged.

The summary said Fenti, in collusion with Webster, chose Data Dynamics, which transcribed medical records, for several contracts.

The deals included a $2 million BAMC magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contract in June 2008, a $4.9 million BAMC MRI contract in July 2008 and a $633,407 BAMC staffing contract in September 2008.

Once contracts were secured by Data Dynamics, the defendants caused it to overcharge the Army and then submitted substantially overinflated invoices from MRI Resources or Pro Veteran Staffing to Data Dynamics, the indictment said.

The documents allege Fenti and Webster used acquaintances and relatives to hide their scheme and disguise how the money flowed. The indictment accuses Hoffman's company of being an unnecessary layer in the process so Fenti could get kickbacks.

The indictment seeks a monetary judgment against Webster of $613,828. Fenti's plea deal said he agrees that the judge will enter a judgment against him of $282,485. However, he disputes whether an additional $120,000 that Webster gave Fenti so he could pay for a lawyer should be included in the judgment.

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