Nigerian Sentenced for East Texas Health Care Fraud Violations
TYLER, TX—A 44-year-old woman, formerly of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, has been sentenced to federal prison for a health care fraud scheme in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.
Vivian Yusuf pleaded guilty on Sep. 17, 2014, to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison today by U.S. District Judge Michael Schneider.
According to information presented in court, from June 2007 to May 2009, Yusuf, the former owner of Ivy Health Care Supply, a Houston-area medical supply company, and Aghaegbuna “Ike” Odelugo, James Reese, and others carried out a scheme to defraud Medicare through the marketing of power wheelchairs and accessories, as well as “ortho kits,” which primarily consisted of a bag of orthotic items, including braces, wraps, and supports, and a heat lamp or heat pad. As part of the scheme, the defendant and her co-conspirators illegally obtained protected health information, including names, dates of birth, and Medicare numbers from elderly individuals. Yusuf and her co-conspirators supplied beneficiaries with kits and power wheelchairs which were not prescribed or otherwise authorized by a physician and which were not wanted by the beneficiaries. Claims were submitted by the defendant and her co-conspirators for approximately 790 beneficiaries located primarily in Texas and Louisiana. In some instances, physicians’ signatures were forged and false claims were submitted to Medicare in the names of Medicare beneficiaries who were deceased. By means of fraudulent billing practices, the defendant and her co-conspirators unlawfully submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare of more than $3.4 million and obtained more than $1.6 million.
Yusuf was a fugitive for several years before her arrest June 3, 2014 at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Yusuf had been indicted for conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, and aggravated identity theft on Jan. 12, 2012.
Odelugo and Reese were indicted for their involvement in similar health care fraud schemes. Odelugo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, and money laundering and was sentenced to 72 months in federal prison. The loss to Medicare as a result of Odelugo’s scheme was approximately $9.9 million. Reese pleaded guilty to health care fraud and tax evasion and was sentenced to 180 months in federal prison. The loss to Medicare as a result of Reese’s scheme was approximately $8.6 million.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), the Texas Office of the Attorney General—Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (OAG-MFCU), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel C. Kummerfeld and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken McGurk prosecuted the case.