Monday, February 21, 2011
State and Federal Officials File Health Care Fraud Charges Against Nine Houston-area DefendantsThe United States Attorney For the Southern District of Texas issued the following news release on February 17, 2011:
(HOUSTON) – A Houston-area doctor and nine others were charged today for their participation in a series of separate schemes to defraud the Medicare program of more than $13 million. The Houston cases were announced today by U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno of the Southern District of Texas; Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Michael H. Bonners of the FBI’s Houston field office; Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Joseph Prekker of the Dallas Regional Office of the Department of Health and Human Services - Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations; and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).
“Health care fraud impacts every provider and beneficiary of the program,” said Moreno. “The investigation and prosecution of those who abuse the system will remain a high priority for this office and our partner agencies.”
The 10 Houston defendants, including a doctor, a chiropractor and the owners and operators of health care companies, were charged in six separate cases with engaging in fraudulent home health care schemes, durable medical equipment schemes, chiropractic and physical schemes. The Houston-area schemes involved more than $13.3 million in fraudulent claims submitted to Medicare. The Houston indictments formed part of a nationwide takedown by United States Attorney’s offices and the Department of Justice’s Medicare Fraud (HEAT) Strike Force that led to charges against a total of 111 defendants for their alleged participation in schemes to collectively submit more than $225 million in fraudulent claims to the Medicare program.
“We all pay the price when criminals seek to steal our taxpayer dollars,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard C. Powers. “The FBI and its partners will continue to protect the integrity of our healthcare programs and prosecute those who defraud them.”
“The solid reputation of legitimate Durable Medical Equipment (DME) suppliers and Home Health agencies continues to be sullied by the actions alleged here today against their unscrupulous peers,” said Mike Fields, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health & Human Service’s Region including Houston. “Today’s actions are part of a coordinated, nationwide sweep in our continuing battle against health care fraud.”
All six of the following indictments were unsealed today. All 10 defendants have been taken into custody and either have or will be making appearances before a U.S. Magistrate Judge today.
On Feb. 3, 2011 the U.S. Attorney’s Office obtained the following indictment:
Justina Okehie, 55, a chiropractor, Cassandra Barnes, 47, and Melloneen Davis, 52, all of Houston, associated with Adom Rehabilitation Services and Healthcare and Wellness Medical Clinic, were charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud for submitting approximately $4.7 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare for chiropractic and physical therapy services. Adom Rehabilitation Services is located on the 1600 block of Fondren Street in Houston while Healthcare and Wellness Clinic is located on the 8400 block of Fondren.
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Blan of the SDTX Health Care Fraud section.
On Feb. 13, 2011, the HEAT Strike Force obtained indictment in the following cases:
Dr. Ben Echols, 61, of Houston, was charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud in connection with an approximately $5.2 million scheme to defraud the Medicare program for the submission of fraudulent home-health claims. Dr. Echols’ practice is located on the 2600 block of South Loop West in Houston.
Ekpedeme Obot, 34, of Houston, and owner of Praise DME, was charged with health care fraud in connection with an approximately $1.3 million scheme to defraud the Medicare program through the submission of fraudulent claims for durable medical equipment. Praise DME, previously located on the 6200 block of Bonhomme Road in Houston, is closed.
Sharon Beal, 47, and Kemmie Houston, 42, both of Houston, and owners of STK Consultants, were charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud in connection with an approximately $851,000 scheme to defraud the Medicare program through the submission of fraudulent claims for DME. STK Consultants is located on the 7700 block of North Sam Houston Parkway East in Humble, Texas.
Akinsunbo Akinbile, 43, of Richmond, and owner of Hallco, was charged with health care fraud in connection with an approximately $694,000 scheme to defraud the Medicare program through the submission of fraudulent claims for durable medical equipment. Hallco, previously located on the 6600 block of Hillcroft Street in Houston, is closed.
Simone Ball, 24, of Stafford, and Philip Ware, 30, of Missouri City, owners of Preferred Plus Medical Supply, were charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud in connection with an approximately $654,000 scheme to defraud the Medicare program through the submission of fraudulent claims for durable medical equipment. Preferred Plus Medical Supply, previously located at 900 Westpark Drive in Houston, is closed.
These cases will be prosecuted by Department of Justice trial lawyers attached to the Houston HEAT Strike Force.
The Houston takedown is a result of investigations conducted by FBI’s Houston Field Division, the Houston office of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations; and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) with the assistance provided by the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board Office of Inspector General during today’s arrest efforts.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until convicted through due process of law.