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SANTA BARBARA COUNTY MAN SENTENCED TO SIX YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR RUNNING $6 MILLION JOB SCAM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 5, 2011

LOS ANGELES – The owner of a South Los Angeles medical supply company that fraudulently collected nearly $2 million from Medicare for unneeded electric wheelchairs and other durable medical equipment has been sentenced to 57 months in federal prison.

Marlon Oslvaldo Palma, 40, of South Los Angeles, was sentenced late yesterday by United States District Judge Christina A. Synder.

Palma, the co-owner of Santos Medical Supply, pleaded guilty in March 2010 to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Palma admitted to bilking the Medicare program by submitting claims for $5,000 power wheelchairs and other medical equipment that were unnecessary and, in many instances, never provided to patients. As part of the scheme, Palma bought Medicare patient information and bogus prescriptions from a medical clinic and patient recruiters and then used that information to bill Medicare. Santos Medical Supply submitted nearly $3 million worth of fraudulent claims to Medicare, which paid out $1,822,016.

Palma was arrested in September 2008 after an investigation by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a multi-agency team comprised of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG); the Fraud Section in the Criminal Division at the United States Department of Justice in Washington; and the United State’s Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

Five other people arrested along with Palma previously pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial. They are:

Elsie Edmond, 54, of South Los Angeles, the other co-owner of Santos Medical Supply, who was sentenced in June 2010 to 57 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge;

Heber Josue Gonzalez, 30, of South Los Angeles, a manager of Santos Medical Supply, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced last year to 30 month in prison;

Kelechi Ajoku, 29, of South Los Angeles, a registered nurse purportedly in charge of Santos’ facility and its prescription items, who is scheduled to be sentenced on May 6 by Judge Snyder after a jury convicted him last month of making false statements in connection with health care matters;

Leslie Duarte, 25, of South Los Angeles, Edmond’s daughter and a manger at Santos, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday; and

Gloria Cristina Hernandez, 62, of Ontario, a patient recruiter, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Snyder on April 27.

The investigation into Santos Medical Supply was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General.

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Release No. 11-047

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