WASHINGTON – Two owners of a Houston health care company pleaded guilty for their roles in a scheme to defraud Medicare of more than $800,000, announced the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS).
Kemmie Houston, 43, pleaded guilty today and Sharon Beal, 47, pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Houston. Houston and Beal both pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge David Hittner to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In their pleas, Beal and Houston admitted that they defrauded Medicare of $851,212.
According to court documents, Beal and Houston owned and operated STK Consultants. STK maintained a Medicare provider number in order to submit Medicare claims for the costs of durable medical equipment (DME) and purported to provide orthotics, power wheelchairs, power wheelchair accessories and other DME to Medicare beneficiaries. According to court documents, STK submitted claims to Medicare for DME that was medically unnecessary and/or not provided. Many of the orthotic devices were components of what was referred to as an “arthritis kit,” and were purported to be for the treatment of arthritis-related conditions; in fact, however, they were not medically necessary or appropriate for such conditions. The arthritis kit generally contained a number of orthotic devices including braces for both sides of the body and related accessories such as heat pads. In total, from August 2005 through August 2010, STK submitted approximately $851,212 in fraudulent claims to Medicare.
Beal is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 14, 2011, and Houston is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 15, 2011. Beal and Houston each face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The guilty pleas were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno of the Southern District of Texas; Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott; Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Russell D. Robinson of the FBI’s Houston Field Office; and Special Agent-in-Charge Mike Fields of the Dallas Regional Office of HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations.
This case is being 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 1,000 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.3 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 .