Former Pine Bluff physician accused in NW Health System embezzlement

BENTONVILLE — A former Pine Bluff physician is to be arraigned in Benton County Circuit Court on Monday, Dec. 9, on a felony embezzlement charge of theft of property.

Ruben Tejada is accused of taking $27,380 from Northwest Health System, which includes the Northwest Medical Hospital facilities in Bentonville and Springdale and Willow Creek’s Women’s Hospital in Johnson.

Tejada, who previously practiced in Pine Bluff and was on the staff of Jefferson Regional Medical Center from June 1996 to December 2005, had been hired — along with his staff — by Northwest Health in February. Authorities said the 55-year-old internal medicine specialist’s employment there ended in August. However, Tejada maintained a private office in Bentonville.

The charge against Tejada is a Class B felony, and conviction carries a sentence of five to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Tejada was arrested and booked Oct. 31 and released on his own recognizance, posting no bond.

Bentonville Police Detective Cpl. Mark Jordan investigated the matter, according to a Benton County District Court probable cause affidavit. Jordan reported that Amy Forest, vice president of Northwest Health’s compliance department, told him that Tejada had admitted to stealing hospital funds.

Maria Araujo, a member of Tejada’s staff, told Northwest Health Human Resources Director Kim Swieter in August that Tejada was not only pocketing cash from self-pay patients, but had ordered that separate books be kept so that he could avoid detection in taking the funds. Also, Tejada allegedly made threats in the process of taking money, indicating he had mafia connections that could be called upon against anyone who might reveal his actions.