Two Houston-Area Residents Charged in Nationwide Medicare Fraud Strike Force Takedown
Total of 91 Defendants Charged Nationally with Submitting $295 Million in Fraudulent Claims
|U.S. Attorney’s Office September 07, 2011|
HOUSTON—The owner of a Medicare referral business and the owner of a medical supply company have been charged for their participation in separate schemes to defraud the Medicare program of more than $62 million, announced the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
The Houston indictments are part of a nationwide takedown by Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations that led to charges against 91 defendants for their alleged participation in schemes to collectively submit more than $295 million in fraudulent claims to the Medicare program. This takedown involved the highest amount of false Medicare billings in a single takedown in Strike Force history.
“The defendants charged in this takedown are accused of stealing precious taxpayer resources and defrauding Medicare—jeopardizing the integrity of our health care system and our nation’s most critical health care program for personal gain,” said Attorney General Holder. “Our highly coordinated, nationwide Strike Force operations are working aggressively to combat Medicare fraud and our anti-health care fraud efforts have never been more innovative, collaborative, aggressive—or effective. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and partners across government to fight against health care fraud.”
“Defrauding our national health care programs affects those who depend on our health care system and cheats the taxpaying public,” said U.S. Attorney Moreno. “Those who defraud the system, no matter what their role, should expect to face federal prosecution.”
An indictment, returned under seal by a Houston grand jury on Aug. 31, 2011, was unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Houston following the arrest of Jodi Leonore Latson, 45, of Houston. Latson is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, two counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay or receive kickbacks and four counts relating to the payment and receipt of kickbacks. According to the indictment, Latson owned and operated a Medicare referral business known as Health Pro Resources LLC. The indictment alleges that Latson used a data-mining service to compile lists of Medicare beneficiaries. The lists were provided to Health Pro Resources employees who worked in a “boiler room” call-center and recruited beneficiaries through telemarketing calls. According to the indictment, Latson then provided beneficiary information to 100 different home health care agencies in exchange for illegal payments. The indictment alleges that Latson caused the submission of false and fraudulent claims to the Medicare program for home health care services that were medically unnecessary and not prescribed by a patient’s physician. According to the indictment, the Medicare program paid the companies who purchased beneficiaries from Latson approximately $61.5 million. Latson is set to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson.
In a separate and unrelated case, Akinsunbo Akinbile, 43, of Richmond, Texas, has been charged in a superseding indictment with eight counts of health care fraud in connection with an approximately $700,000 scheme to defraud the Medicare program through the submission of fraudulent claims for durable medical equipment (DME). Akinbile was also charged with two counts of aggravated identity theft. Akinbile was the owner of Hallco Medical Supply, a DME company in Houston. On bond since being charged in February 2011, Akinbile appeared today and has been permitted to remain on bond pending his trial.
Since their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,140 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.9 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-Office of Inspector General (OIG), are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers. The Houston Strike Force has obtained indictments of more than 71 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $96.8 million since it began its operation in late July 2009.
The results of the nationwide takedown were announced today by Attorney General Holder, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, and Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson of the HHS - OIG. The Houston indictments were announced by U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno of the Southern District of Texas; Special Agent in Charge Stephen L. Morris of the FBI’s Houston Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields of the Dallas Regional Office of HHS-OIG, Office of Investigations; and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the FBI, HHS-OIG, the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and the United States Railroad Retirement Board.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.