Home Houston Press Releases 2014 Houston Ambulance Operator Sentenced for Her Role in $2.4 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

Houston Ambulance Operator Sentenced for Her Role in $2.4 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

U.S. Department of Justice June 13, 2014
  • Office of Public Affairs (202) 514-2007/TDD (202) 514-1888

WASHINGTON—The owner and operator of a Houston-area ambulance company was sentenced today to serve 97 months in prison for her role in a $2.4 million Medicare fraud scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge Stephen L. Morris of the FBI’s Houston Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields of the Dallas Regional Office of HHS’s Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) made the announcement.

Gwendolyn Climmons-Johnson, 54, was convicted by a federal jury in Houston, Texas, on October 30, 2013, of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and four counts of health care fraud. In addition to the prison sentence, Climmons-Johnson was also sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $972,132 in restitution.

According to evidence presented at trial, Climmons-Johnson was the owner and operator of Urgent Response EMS, a Texas-based entity that purportedly provided non-emergency ambulance services to Medicare beneficiaries in the Houston area. The evidence showed that from January 2010 through December 2011, Climmons-Johnson and others conspired to enrich themselves by submitting false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for ambulance services that were medically unnecessary and/or not provided. Climmons-Johnson, who controlled the day-to-day operations of Urgent Response, submitted, and caused to be submitted, approximately $2.4 million in fraudulent ambulance service claims to Medicare.

At trial, the evidence showed that patient records had been falsified and the Medicare beneficiaries for whom Climmons-Johnson had billed ambulance services did not need ambulance services and were not in the condition stated in the records.

The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and Texas MFCU and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Christopher Cestaro and Assistant Chief Laura M.K. Cordova of the Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 1,900 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

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