Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Owner of Texas-based Ambulance Service Convicted of Health Care Fraud

A federal jury in Houston has convicted Gwendolyn Climmons-Johnson, 53, of multiple counts of health care fraud for submitting false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for ambulance services.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas made the announcement.

After a three-day trial, the jury convicted Climmons-Johnson on Oct. 30, 2013, of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and four counts of health care fraud.  She faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each count when she is sentenced on Feb. 7, 2014.

According to evidence presented at trial, Climmons-Johnson was the owner and operator of Urgent Response EMS (Urgent Response), a Texas-based entity that purportedly provided non-emergency ambulance services to Medicare beneficiaries in the Houston area.  The evidence showed that from January 2010 through December 2011, Climmons-Johnson and others conspired to unlawfully enrich themselves by submitting false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for ambulance services that were medically unnecessary and/or not provided.  Climmons-Johnson, who controlled the day-to-day operations of Urgent Response, submitted, and caused to be submitted, approximately $2.4 million in fraudulent ambulance service claims to Medicare. 

At trial, the evidence showed that patient records had been falsified and the Medicare beneficiaries for whom Climmons-Johnson had billed ambulance services did not need ambulance services and were not in the condition stated in the records. 

The case was investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and the Texas Attorney General Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.  The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

The case was tried by Assistant Chief Laura M.K. Cordova and Trial Attorney Christopher Cestaro of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, with assistance from former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney James S. Seaman. 

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion.  In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with 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.

13-1162