INDIANAPOLIS — Two former executives with a company that operates dozens of Indiana nursing homes have agreed to plead guilty in a kickback scheme involving millions of dollars.

Court documents unsealed this week show former American Senior Communities CEO James Burkhart and former Chief Operating Officer Daniel Benson have reached plea agreements that could put them in prison for decades.

Burkhart and Benson were indicted in 2016 along with Burkhart’s friend, Steven Ganote, and Burkhart’s brother, Joshua Burkhart. Ganote and Joshua Burkhart also have reached plea deals.

Federal prosecutors who indicted the men on a total of 32 counts say they took part in a kickback scheme between January 2009 and September 2015 that netted them $16 million. Prosecutors said the men used shell companies to falsify and inflate costs of goods and services, which enabled them to steal discounts and rebates, and conceal kickbacks during the six-year period.

Prosecutors said the men used the money to buy lavish items, such as vacation homes, jewelry and gold bars.

The plea agreements call for many of the counts the four men had faced to be dismissed.

Joshua Burkhart worked for an accounting firm that prepared cost reports for the health care companies defrauded in the case.

James Burkhart, Benson and Ganote will plead guilty to charges that include money laundering and conspiracy to commit mail, wire and health care fraud. Joshua Burkhart will plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail, wire and health care fraud.

James Burkhart released a statement about his plea agreement through Indianapolis law firm Barnes & Thornburg in which he said he is “deeply sorry for having taken advantage of my relationships and positions for the sake of personal financial gain.”

American Senior Communities said in a statement regarding the plea deals that it “is grateful for the efforts to bring justice in the legal case involving ASC’s former CEO and COO and related parties.”

The company manages nearly 100 senior care facilities, including 60 locations under a contract with Marion County’s public health agency. The county is home to Indianapolis.

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.