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OPINION: Theft indictment sheds light on ‘not-for-profit’ Silver State Health

John L. Smith
John L. Smith

In a country where taxpayers lose an estimated $100 billion a year to health care fraud, the alleged federal grant theft of a mere six figures by former Silver State Health Services CEO Ryan Linden seems minuscule by comparison.

Linden’s recent indictment is four pages long and lists just a single charge, but it speaks volumes about the challenges of investigating health care fraud and theft. Cases can smolder for years before catching fire with millions in well-meant, but fraudulently spent funds going up in smoke.

Linden is accused of making misrepresentations in Silver State’s grant application with the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. He noted that $735,200 of the company’s budget would be spent for personnel costs at its health center. Approximately half of that figure wound up in a bank account that Linden controlled, according to the indictment.

The not-for-profit limited liability company based in Las Vegas was awarded the grant for personnel funding in February 2019, but didn’t hang onto the windfall long.

On June 10, 2019, it’s alleged Silver State withdrew more than $357,000 from the grant and deposited it into the company’s bank account. On June 16, Linden’s name was added as a signatory to a company named Freedom Infusions LLC. On June 24, $340,000 of the funds were transferred into the Freedom Infusions account. “The $340,000 was allegedly used for the benefit of others,” a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Nevada, states.

A jury trial is set for later this year with Linden, 35, facing as many as 10 years in prison. The fact he is the only person charged in the case may come as a surprise to those who have followed my reporting in recent years on the tumultuous saga of Silver State Health, which was once in line to receive a $4 million federal health care-related grant. The LLCs vary, but the names involved appear to have plenty in common.

For its part, Freedom Infusions is managed by Rick Saga and Robert Nghiem, according to the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office. Both men’s names surfaced several times during my investigation into Silver State’s efforts to persuade the Nye County Commission to part with the vacant Pahrump Medical Center, a property worth several million dollars. At the time Silver State was in the process of securing a $4 million federal health care grant.

Saga had courted members of the commission, most prominently controversial commissioner Leo Blundo, an unabashed advocate for the sale of the medical center. At one point, Blundo’s wife, Melissa Blundo, was listed as Silver State’s “Regional Director, Nye County.” Saga also was listed as an officer in Nye Farm Tech, a licensed marijuana business.

As late as June 2020, just months before Linden was ousted as CEO, in an email to Silver State’s CPA he touted the millions in expansion plans that were awaiting funding from multiple federal sources. In addition to the Pahrump medical center play, there was a $900,000 renovation for a rehabilitation building on Jones Boulevard in Las Vegas, a structure the company didn’t yet own. At a business park, a few more million could be put to use in the name of serving the needy. Silver State didn’t own that building, either.

In his letter, Linden enthused, “All in all, Silver State health could immediately utilize between $4.9-$6 million to meet these capital costs.”

It was just a matter of lining up the federal grants and new funds coming available — never mind the fact that the group’s officers were at a loss to provide many details about expenditures in a set up so pungent with the odor of mismanagement that the juiced-in Linden would find himself bounced out by October.

Others scattered as well. Some were fired. By 2021, former Silver State board member Aaron Williams would be convicted of fraud in a Medicaid billing scam. Still others resurfaced with multiple LLCs and new stories to tell to anyone with access to federal grant money.

There were good actors, too. Roosevelt Daymon hired CPA Tam Ngyeun as chief financial officer, and her accounting helped lead to Linden’s ouster. For his whistleblowing efforts, Daymon was asked to step down.

It looks like Linden had fun while it lasted. In need of reliable transportation, he was provided with a $70,000 Tesla, according to one informed source. His salary steadily grew to $150,000, which isn’t bad for a not-for-profit that wasn’t paying its bills or keeping professional records.

He is the son of David Earl Linden, a Nevada psychiatrist with a historical connection to Silver State Health as well as a documented record of unethical and criminal behavior reaching back two decades. Allegations against him have included sexual misconduct with patients and improperly prescribing hydrocodone. After an investigation by the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners, in 2007 DavidLinden accepted a penalty that placed him on probation.

He was back in the news in 2008 after being arrested on a bad checks case at Las Vegas casinos totaling at least $300,000. 

Ryan Linden had no such background when he emerged as Silver State’s CEO and embarked on an expansion plan that included the potential use of millions in federal funding.

The younger Linden faces a single charge, but it’s important to view this federal investigation as a microcosm of the larger task of ensuring that federal medical care dollars reach the underserved communities that depend on them.

John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. He was born in Henderson and his family’s Nevada roots go back to 1881. His stories have appeared in Time, Readers Digest, The Daily Beast, Reuters, Ruralite and Desert Companion, among others. He also offers weekly commentary on Nevada Public Radio station KNPR.


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