Massachusetts Man Indicted for Health Care Fraud in East Texas
|U.S. Attorney’s Office August 19, 2009|
BEAUMONT, TX—U.S. Attorney John M. Bales announced today that a 49-year-old Lynn, Massachusetts man has been indicted and charged with health care fraud in the Eastern District of Texas.
JOHN NASKY OKONKWO was indicted on Aug. 19, 2009, on 98 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and one count of conspiracy to pay illegal remunerations.
According to the indictment, from January 2004 until December 2008, Okonkwo operated Nasky & Goldfinger, a medical equipment provider, located in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Salem, New Hampshire. Nasky & Goldfinger primarily sold durable medical equipment, including power wheelchairs and orthotic devices. Medicaid and Medicare will pay for the cost of durable medical equipment, but the equipment must be medically necessary for the beneficiary, and must be prescribed by a physician.
It is alleged that from 2004 through 2008, Okonkwo paid door-to-door solicitors to canvass neighborhoods in Beaumont and East Texas in search of Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries. The recruiters would obtain the beneficiaries' information and sell it to Okonkwo, who in turn would bill Medicaid and Medicare for orthotic devices, such as back braces and knee braces, and power wheelchairs. The beneficiaries, however, did not meet the diagnostic requirements to receive the equipment, and had never been prescribed the equipment by a physician in accordance with Medicare and Medicaid rules.
In total, Okonkwo billed Medicare and Medicaid approximately $7 million for orthotic devices and was paid approximately $3.5 million for those claims. Okonkwo billed the programs approximately $5 million for power wheelchairs and related accessories and was paid approximately $1.3 million for those claims.
If convicted, Okonkwo faces up to 10 years in federal prison for each of the 98 health care fraud charges; up to 10 years for the conspiracy charge and up to five years for the illegal remunerations charge.
This case is being investigated by the Texas Attorney General's Office, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher T. Tortorice.
A grand jury indictment is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.