WASHINGTON – A patient recruiter for a Houston durable medical equipment (DME) company was sentenced today to 21 months in prison for her role in a health care fraud scheme involving power wheelchairs, announced the Department of Justice, FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Marion Beverly Metoyer, 57, of Dayton, Texas, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gray Miller in the Southern District of Texas. Metoyer was convicted by a jury on May 26, 2011, of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, three counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to receive health care kickbacks and two counts of receiving kickbacks.
Three co-conspirators were also sentenced today: Johnny Lee Andrews, 59, of Houston; Monica Renee Perry, 44, of Abbeville, La.; and Melvin Barnes, 61, of Humble, Texas. Andrews and Perry were each sentenced to 15 months in prison and Barnes was sentenced to one year of probation. Andrews, Perry and Barnes pleaded guilty on Sept. 23, 2010, to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
According to court documents, Helen Etinfoh was the owner and operator of Luant & Odera Inc., a Houston-area DME company doing business as Tonni Medical Equipment & Supplies. Metoyer, Andrews, Perry and Barnes were patient recruiters for Luant and were paid kickbacks in exchange for providing the company with beneficiaries in whose names bills could be submitted to Medicare. In addition to recruiting patients, Barnes and Andrews were also delivery drivers for Luant. Etinfoh and other co-conspirators submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary DME, including power wheelchairs, wheelchair accessories and motorized scooters.
According to court documents, Luant billed Medicare under a special code that designated the power wheelchairs as replacements for wheelchairs lost during hurricanes that hit the Houston area in fall 2008, based on representations from Metoyer, Andrews, Perry and Barnes. In fact, the hurricanes did not damage the wheelchairs. Certain beneficiaries did not even have a power wheelchair before receiving the ones provided to them by Luant. Luant used the hurricane code because it allowed the company to submit claims to Medicare without a doctor’s order.
Metoyer, Andrews, Perry and Barnes visited the homes of beneficiaries in whose names claims were submitted to Medicare, and offered the beneficiaries free power wheelchairs in exchange for their Medicare information. The power wheelchairs were often billed to Medicare at more than $6,000 per chair. In total, Luant fraudulently billed Medicare approximately $3 million.
Etinfoh was convicted by a federal jury of health care fraud in April 2010, and was sentenced to 41 months in prison. Paula Whitfield, a patient recruiter for Luant, was also convicted by a federal jury in April 2010, and was sentenced to 21 months in prison.
Today’s sentences were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson 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’s Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Laura M.K. Cordova and Assistant Chief Sam S. Sheldon of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud 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, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.