Maryland Man Pleads Guilty to Medicaid Fraud Involving Power Wheelchairs and Incontinence Supplies
Emerald Medical Services Submitted At Least $275,000 in False Claims
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 11, 2012|
WASHINGTON—Uche Ben Odunzeh, 31, of Laurel, Maryland, has pled guilty to a federal charge stemming from the submission of more than $275,000 in false health care claims, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen, Jr. announced today.
Joining in the announcement were James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Nicholas DiGiulio, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) for the region including the District of Columbia; and Charles J. Willoughby, District of Columbia Inspector General.
Odunzeh pled guilty on October 9, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In this case, the charge carries a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison and potential fines. As part of his plea agreement, Odunzeh agreed to pay $277,383 in restitution to the District of Columbia and agreed to entry of a consent order of forfeiture requiring him to forfeit the proceeds of the fraud. The Honorable Ellen S. Huvelle scheduled sentencing for January 16, 2013.
According to a statement of offense signed by the defendant as well as the government, Odunzeh is a Nigerian national whose visa expired in 2004. He was the sole owner of Emerald Medical Services LLC, based in the District of Columbia. Emerald Medical sold durable medical equipment, or DME, such as power wheelchairs and adult incontinence supplies.
From on or about January 8, 2008, through on or about March 18, 2011, Emerald Medical submitted 100 claims to the District of Columbia’s Medicaid program for power wheelchairs, totaling $591,653. The D.C. Medicaid program paid Emerald approximately $480,272 for those claims. All of those claims were for the most expensive power wheelchair, referred to by its procedural billing code of K0011. In fact, however, Emerald Medical provided only more basic, less expensive wheelchairs. The D.C. Medicaid program paid Emerald Medical approximately $6,157 per K0011 chair—nearly twice as much as it would have paid for the less sophisticated chairs that Emerald Medical actually provided. Odunzeh admitted that the program paid Emerald Medical about $232,470 more than what the company was entitled to receive.
During the same time period, Emerald Medical also submitted numerous claims to the D.C. Medicaid program for DME items that it never provided to Medicaid recipients. For example, the D.C. Medicaid program paid Emerald Medical about $44,913 for adult incontinence supplies such as diapers, disposable underpads, and gloves that were never actually provided.
Acting on an anonymous tip that the defendant was leaving the country, federal agents arrested Odunzeh in July 2012 at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. An arrest warrant has been issued for an alleged co-conspirator, who is believed to have fled to Africa.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin, Special Agent in Charge DiGiulio, and Inspector General Willoughby commended the efforts of those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office, HHS-OIG, and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, D.C. Office of the Inspector General. They also acknowledged the efforts of Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart Silverman, of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, as well as the U.S. Marshals Service. Finally, they commended those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Financial Analyst Bryan J. Snitselaar; Legal Assistant Nicole Wattelet; Assistant U.S. Attorney Zia M. Faruqui and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Scruggs, who handled the asset forfeiture portion of the case; Assistant U.S. Attorney Lionel Andre; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ted L. Radway, who is prosecuting the matter.