A federal jury found two home health owners and two employees guilty today for their roles in a scheme to bill Medicare and Medicaid for over $3.7 million in charges when the owners had previously been excluded from participating in federal health care benefit programs.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox of the Northern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge C.J. Porter of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Dallas Region, Special Agent in Charge Eric Jackson of the FBI’s Dallas Field Office and Director of Law Enforcement David Maxwell of the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) made the announcement.
After a six-day trial, Celestine “Tony” Okwilagwe, 50, of Dallas County, Texas; Paul Emordi, 52, of Collin County, Texas; Adetutu Etti, 60, also of Dallas County; and Loveth Isidaehomen, 49, also of Dallas County, were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In addition, Okwilagwe and Etti were each convicted of two counts of false statement in connection with a health care benefit program. Sentencing before U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle of the Northern District of Texas, who presided over the trial, has not yet been scheduled.
According to evidence presented at trial, Okwilagwe and Emordi owned and operated Elder Care, a Medicare and Medicaid provider in Garland, Texas, when both were previously excluded from participating in any federal health care benefit program. Etti, the administrator of Elder Care, concealed Okwilagwe’s ownership and Okwilagwe and Emordi’s exclusions from Medicare and Medicaid. Etti signed false documents that indicated that no one associated with Elder Care was excluded and that another individual owned Elder Care, the evidence showed. The evidence further established that Isidaehomen signed bank documents and wrote employee paychecks to conceal the involvement of her husband, Okwilagwe. The defendants also engaged in a scheme to submit false and fraudulent bills to Medicare for services that were not needed, the evidence showed.
Evidence at trial demonstrated that Elder Care billed Medicare and Medicaid for over $3.7 million for claim reimbursements to which it was not entitled because Okwilagwe and Emordi were excluded from Medicare.
This case was investigated by HHS-OIG, the FBI, and MFCU. Assistant Deputy Chief Adrienne Frazior and Trial Attorney Catherine Wagner of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Fusco of the Northern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which is part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 14 strike forces operating in 23 districts, has charged nearly 4,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $14 billion.