Friday, February 6, 2009
Houston Couple Charged in Medicaid Fraud SchemesHOUSTON – The owners of two Houston-area chemical dependency treatment centers were arrested Wednesday on Medicaid fraud charges. Frank E. Chekwas, 54, and his wife, Philo N. Chekwas, 41, operate chemical dependency treatment centers that serve Medicaid patients. Both Chekwas were indicted on Jan. 28 for illegally billing Medicaid for counseling services that were never actually rendered. The Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) conducted the investigation into the defendant’s billing practices.
Frank Chekwas, who ran a center called Health 1st Clinic and Rehabilitation, was arrested Wednesday at his residence by officers with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Department. His wife, Philo Chekwas, turned herself in to the Harris County Jail, where she was released Wednesday on $20,000 bond. Both defendants were charged with second-degree felonies.
According to MFCU investigators, Philo Chekwas billed Medicaid for dependency counseling that was never provided to Medicaid patients. As a result, she received more than $134,000 in fraudulent over-payments. Similarly, Frank Chekwas, who over-billed Medicaid for group treatment services, received $138,000 in payments for counseling that never actually occurred. The billing practices in question occurred between June 2005 and June 2006.
Harris County Assistant District Attorney Tara George will prosecute these cases.
Medicaid is a joint state-federal program that pays for indigent healthcare. Medicaid providers – including doctors, professional counselors, hospitals, home health services, and durable goods suppliers – invoice the government for the goods or services they furnish to eligible patients. Medicaid providers that submit inflated invoices and accept payment for goods or services not rendered are defrauding the taxpayers.
In 2006 alone, the Texas Medicaid program cost more than $17 billion. As the state’s chief law enforcement official, Attorney General Abbott has dramatically expanded the MFCU to save taxpayer dollars by rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicaid system.
The MFCU 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.