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Sumter, SC (WLTX, AP) - A federal judge is ordering Tuomey Healthcare Systems to pay $276.7 million over filing false Medicare claims.

Judge Margaret Seymour issued her ruling late Monday. DOCUMENT:Read Judge Seymour's Entire Ruling (.PDF)

A federal jury found in Maythat Tuomey signed doctors to lucrative, part-time contracts to ensure that they would get referral fees associated with those physicians' procedures - an illegal kickback under Medicare law.

Prosecutors said Tuomey collected $39 million in fraudulent Medicare claims between 2005 and 2009 based on those doctors' procedures. Tuomey's lawyers argued the contracts were legal and were part of the hospital's effort to serve a medically undeserved community.

Tuomey had asked Seymour to grant them a new trial after they were found guilty in Mayof violating federal law. In denying the motion, Seymour judged in favor of the original defendant in the case for $39 million, then agreed to the $237 millionin federal damages.

"In regards to the Federal Case ruling today, Tuomey respectfully disagrees with the ruling," said Tuomey Board of Trustees Chairman John Brabham. " Our attorneys are filing a notice of appeal today, and we will also ask for a stay of the judgment, pending appeal. The Board is and will continue to be open to settlement."

Although it's unclear why they left, last week two of Tuomey's top leaders announced they were leaving the company: President and CEO Jay Cox and Executive Vice-President/Chief Operating Officer Gregg Martin. The men's replacements have not been named.

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