By Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Created: 12/13/2011 06:15:13 PM PST

ONTARIO – A spokesman for Prime Healthcare Services said the company is unaware of any federal investigation or review of its operations following a published report that the FBI has contacted former employees.

An FBI spokeswoman on Tuesday declined to confirm or deny any investigation of Prime after news service California Watch reported that FBI agents have interviewed former Prime employees about the Ontario company’s Medicare billing practices.

The reported activity may not mean the FBI is pursuing a full-blown investigation of Prime, but the report comes after more than a year of disputes and counter allegations between Prime and Service Employees International Union, which represents employees at three of Prime’s 14 hospitals in California.

Prime Healthcare and SEIU have fought their battles in courtrooms and in the media, and Prime spokesman Edward Barrera said he is not surprised that SEIU may have managed to leverage its political influence in order to attract the FBI’s attention, adding that he expects Prime to be vindicated in any official queries.

“I think any scrutiny will show that all of our hospitals are following federal laws,” Barrera said in a telephone interview. “I’m unsurprised that a federal agency is doing its due diligence, but at the end of the day, they’ll find there’s no `there,’ there.”

An SEIU representative, however, said the union has not asked the FBI for an investigation and added that the SEIU is not so powerful as to make the agency do its bidding.

“We don’t have any sort of involvement in this FBI case,” SEIU spokesman David Tokaji said. “We don’t talk or commiserate with them.”

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