Tuesday, January 29, 2008

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Houston Medical Supply Provider Pleads Guilty In Medicaid Fraud Scheme

HOUSTON – The owner of Starlight Health Care pleaded guilty to theft by a governmental contractor last week. The Houston-area medical supply company admitted to receiving Medicaid reimbursements for medical supplies that were never delivered.

In a case investigated by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, owner Nene Akpaffiong, 57, was sentenced Thursday to 10 years deferred adjudication. Under the terms of the plea agreement, she must reimburse the government for $126,540 in stolen funds and pay a $500 fine.

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Nene Akpaffiong
Nene Akpaffiong

“This defendant pleaded guilty to defrauding the government by billing Medicaid for goods that were never delivered,” Attorney General Abbott said. “The taxpayer dollars allotted to the Medicaid program are supposed to provide health care to the indigent, not support a fraudulent over-billing scheme. We will continue investigating waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicaid system.”

Indicted last October, Akpaffiong surrendered to authorities at the Harris County Jail on Oct. 18. She was charged with billing Medicaid and receiving reimbursements for incontinence supplies such as adult diapers, some of which were never delivered to recipients. Between January 2003 and April 2006, Akpaffiong billed Medicaid $660,000 for medical supplies. The Medicaid program remitted $399,000. An investigation by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit revealed the government paid $126,540 for supplies Akpaffiong did not actually provide.

State and federal authorities have been investigating providers of durable medical equipment and supplies, including billing schemes under Medicaid and Medicare for adult diapers, wheelchairs and other medical supplies that were never delivered. In Akpaffiong’s case, she primarily billed Medicaid for incontinence supplies, such as adult diapers, that were never delivered.

Harris County Assistant District Attorney Joni Vollman prosecuted the case.

In 2006 alone, Texas spent more than $17 billion to fund its portion of the Medicaid program. To save taxpayer dollars and protect Texas seniors, Attorney General Abbott dramatically expanded the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

The unit has established field offices in Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Lubbock, McAllen, San Antonio and Tyler through authorization and funding from the 78th Legislature. It works with federal, state and local agencies across the state to identify and prosecute those who defraud the Medicaid program.

To obtain more information about the Attorney General’s efforts to fight Medicaid fraud, access the agency’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.