Los Angeles Doctor Convicted of Health Care Fraud for Submitting to Medicare About $1 Million in Bills for Tests Never Performed
LOS ANGELES – A doctor already serving a lengthy prison sentence in a narcotics case has been convicted of health care fraud for submitting approximately $1 million in fraudulent bills to Medicare in just seven months.
After less than a day of deliberations, a federal jury on Monday afternoon convicted Dr. Owusu Ananeh Firempong of five counts of health care fraud.
Firempong, 61, who resided in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles and had been practicing in the Los Angeles region for more than three decades, submitted fraudulent bills for nerve conduction tests and sleep studies that were never performed. As a result of the fraudulent bills, Medicare paid him nearly $700,000.
During a four-day trial in United States District Court, prosecutors presented evidence that Firempong obtained information about Medicare beneficiaries who were not his patients and then used that information to bill Medicare.
The evidence presented at trial showed that Firempong repeatedly lied to Medicare about services he claimed to have provided at clinic locations from which he had been evicted. The jury also heard expert testimony from a neurologist about Firempong’s patient files, which contained so many internal inconsistencies and improbably identical results that they appeared to have been a “copy-and-paste job.”
As a result of this week’s guilty verdicts, Firempong faces up to 50 years in federal prison. Firempong is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Gary A. Feess on December 10.
“Taxpayers expect that Medicare services they pay for are both necessary and provided by the proper health provider,” said Glenn R. Ferry, the Los Angeles Region’s Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. “Such billing based on improper Medicare provider numbers will continue to be aggressively investigated and prosecuted.”
Firempong is currently in custody after being sentenced in Michigan last year to 324 months in federal prison in an unrelated cocaine trafficking and money laundering case. That case is currently on appeal.
The case against Firempong was brought as a part of a nationwide takedown by Medicare Fraud Strike Force in September 2011. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud around the country. Since their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,330 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $4 billion. In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS’s Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), are taking steps to increase accountability and reduce fraudulent billing.
The case against Firempong was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and HHS-OIG.
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