Dallas-Based Home Health Company Owners and Nurses Charged for Roles in $13.4 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme
WASHINGTON—The co-owners of a home health company in Dallas and two nurse employees were charged in an indictment unsealed yesterday for their alleged participation in a $13.4 million health care fraud scheme involving fraudulent claims for home health services.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge CJ Porter of the Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Dallas Region, Special Agent in Charge Thomas M. Class Sr. of the FBI’s Dallas Field Office and Director of Law Enforcement David Maxwell of the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) made the announcement.
Patience Okoroji, 57, Usani Ewah, 58, Kingsley Nwanguma, 45, all of Dallas County, Texas, and Joy Ogwuegbu, 39, of Collin County, Texas, were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In addition, Okoroji and Ewah are each charged with five counts of health care fraud; Nwanguma is charged with three counts of health care fraud and Ogwuegbu is charged with four counts of health care fraud.
Ewah, Nwanguma and Ogwuegbu were arrested yesterday and made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Renee H. Toliver of the Northern District of Texas. Okoroji was also arrested yesterday and will have her initial appearance today.
Okoroji and Ewah co-owned Timely Home Health Services Inc. (Timely), where Okoroji was also an administrator and licensed vocational nurse and Ewah was the director of nursing and a registered nurse. Nwanguma was a licensed vocational nurse working for Timely and Ogwuegbu was a registered nurse working for Timely.
The indictment alleges that from approximately January 2007 to September 2015, the defendants conspired to defraud Medicare by causing the submission and concealment of false and fraudulent claims to Medicare. According to the allegations, Okoroji and Ewah would in some cases pay recruiters, including Nwanguma, to recruit beneficiaries for home health services, regardless of whether the beneficiaries needed home health care. Okoroji, Ewah and Ogwuegbu allegedly prepared or caused to be prepared fraudulent Medicare documents that made it appear that the beneficiaries qualified for home health services. These documents were used by doctors to certify Medicare beneficiaries for home health care.
The indictment alleges that during the scheme, Okoroji and Ewah billed Medicare approximately $13,434,550 based on false and fraudulent claims for home health services.
An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
HHS-OIG, FBI and the Texas Attorney General’s MFCU investigated the case, which 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 of the Northern District of Texas. Trial Attorney Jason Knutson of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is prosecuting the case.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,300 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $7 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.