WASHINGTON – The co-owner of two Los Angeles-area health care companies was sentenced today to 96 months in prison for his conviction stemming from a nine-year scheme to defraud Medicare, announced the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS).
U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson also ordered Evans Oniha, 49, to pay $7 million in restitution and to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term. A federal jury in the Central District of California found Oniha guilty on July 7, 2011, of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, four counts of health care fraud and one count of false statements relating to health care matters.
According to court documents, in 2002, Oniha and co-defendant Camillus Ehigie founded and began operating Prosperity Home Health Services Inc., a home health agency, and Caravan Medical Supplies Inc., a durable medical equipment (DME) company. According to testimony presented at trial, from October 2002 to February 2011, Oniha conspired with Ehigie and others to defraud Medicare by paying “marketers” for Medicare beneficiary information, fraudulent prescriptions and other documents for DME and home health services. Testimony at trial showed that the marketers were individuals who acquired patient Medicare numbers and doctors’ prescriptions and sold them to Oniha. Oniha used these fraudulent documents to submit and cause the submission of false claims to Medicare for DME and home health services that were not medically necessary and that often were not provided to Medicare beneficiaries. According to court documents, Oniha caused Prosperity to submit approximately $8 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare for home health services purportedly provided by Prosperity. Oniha caused Caravan to submit approximately $5.8 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare for DME purportedly provided by Caravan.
On July 5, 2011, Ehigie pleaded guilty to 11 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, one count of making false statements in a federal health care investigation and one count of obstructing a criminal health care investigation. Ehigie is scheduled to be sentenced on July 9, 2012.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney William G. Kanellis and Deputy Chief Charles La Bella of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,190 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $3.2 billion. In addition, the HHS 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.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov .