Houston Defendants Plead Guilty to “Arthritis Kit” Medicare Fraud Scheme
Rolondae Mitchell-Straughter and Ana Quinteros each pleaded guilty yesterday in connection with their roles in an "arthritis kit" Medicare fraud scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno of the Southern District of Texas; Richard C. Powers, Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Houston office; and Special Agent-in-Charge Mike Fields of the Dallas Regional Office of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG), Office of Investigations.
Mitchell-Straughter, 43, and Quinteros, 28, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Gray Miller in the Southern District of Texas to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Mitchell-Straughter was an administrative assistant at two Houston-area durable medical equipment (DME) companies: Family Healthcare Services and its successor company, Family DME Inc . Quinteros was a patient recruiter.
In connection with the pleas, the defendants admitted that Family DME billed Medicare for expensive, rigid orthotics and braces that were packaged together and referred to as an "arthritis kit," at a cost of approximately $4,000 per kit, when in fact, the equipment supplied was not medically necessary and in many cases not even supplied. In total, Family DME submitted more than $1,505,000 in claims to Medicare.
Sentencing for Mitchell-Straughter and Quinteros is scheduled for June 18, 2010. The defendants each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Four other defendants are scheduled for trial beginning on March 29, 2010.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Charles D. Reed and Sam Sheldon of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and the Office of the Texas Attorney General, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
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, Strike Force operations in seven districts have obtained indictments of more than 500 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $1.1 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.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov