February 13, 2015

Health Care Company Executives Sentenced to Prison for Fraud and Kickbacks

BATON ROUGE, LA—United States Attorney Walt Green announced that IMEH U. EBERE, age 55, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and SHEILA R. HIVES, age 51, of Baker, Louisiana, have each been sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson for health care fraud offenses in connection with their roles at Golden Medical Equipment & Supply, Inc. (“Golden”), a Baton Rouge-based company that provided durable medical equipment in the Baton Rouge area. EBERE was sentenced to serve twenty-two (22) months in prison, followed by a two-year term of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $444,061.72 in restitution. HIVES was sentenced to a term of probation and was ordered to pay $7,687.50 in restitution.

In 2012, a federal grand jury indicted EBERE and HIVES, charging them with a variety of offenses arising out of a fraudulent scheme through which EBERE and Golden submitted false reimbursement claims to Medicare for enteral nutrition that Golden had purportedly provided to Medicare beneficiaries. Enteral nutrition is designed for individuals who suffer from health conditions that prevent food from reaching the digestive tract, therefore preventing the individuals from maintaining their weight and strength. Enteral nutrition is administered via a feeding tube.

On July 23, 2014, HIVES pled guilty before Chief Judge Jackson to receiving health care kickbacks, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1320a-7b(b)(1)(A). HIVES admitted that she received illegal kickbacks from EBERE to induce HIVES to refer Medicare beneficiaries to EBERE and Golden. Approximately one week later, on July 29, 2014, EBERE pled guilty before Chief Judge Jackson to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349. EBERE admitted that, through her company, she submitted numerous fraudulent claims to Medicare for enteral nutrition-related products that she had purportedly provided to Medicare beneficiaries, even though the beneficiaries did not have feeding tubes and therefore did not need enteral nutrition and did not qualify for it. EBERE admitted that, from September 2003 through November 2011, through Golden, she submitted approximately $800,000 in enteral nutrition related claims alone.

The case was investigated by the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHH-OIG), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Louisiana State Attorney General’s Office (MFCU), and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the United States Attorney’s Office and the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shubhra Shivpuri, with assistance from DOJ Trial Attorney Dustin M. Davis.