Jury Convicts Houston Physician in Health Care Fraud Conspiracy
HOUSTON—A federal jury sitting in Houston has returned guilty verdicts today against Dr. Enyibuaku Rita Uzoaga, 43, on six counts of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. The jury deliberated for approximately four hours following a six-day trial.
Co-defendant Charles Harris, 55, pleaded guilty prior to trial.
At trial, the jury heard that from approximately 2006 through 2010, Uzoaga, Harris and others falsely billed Medicare and Medicaid for numerous, unnecessary vestibular diagnostic tests. Some patients were billed for hundreds of tests, some for more than a 1,000. The evidence at trial showed that the testing by Harris and his employees was either not performed, not medically necessary and/or not performed by licensed individuals.
Vestibular diagnostic testing is used to diagnose a person for vertigo or dizziness. After being diagnosed, patients usually undergo physical therapy, take medication or undergo surgery as treatment.
As a result of this unlawful scheme, Medicare and Medicaid were billed approximately $653,970 in submitted, fraudulent vestibular diagnostic claims. Medicare and Medicaid paid $389,285 on those claims.
Vestibular testing accounted for 23 percent of Uzoaga’s income from Medicare and Medicaid.
At trial, Uzoaga attempted to convince the jury that she was unaware of the false billings. The jury did not believe her story and found Uzoaga guilty as charged.
U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. presided over the trial and has et sentencing for Feb. 29, 2015. At that time, Uzoaga faces up to 10 years in federal prison on each of the charges as well as a possible $250,000 fine.
Uzoaga was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The charges are the result of the investigative efforts of the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Department of Health and Human Services—Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations and the FBI. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Bradley and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tina Ansari prosecuted the case.