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Nigerian Fugitive Arrested for Health Care Fraud Violations
TYLER, Texas — A 43-year-old Nigerian fugitive has been arrested at a Houston airport and will now face federal health care fraud violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales.
Vivian Yusuf, of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, the former owner of Ivy Health Care Supply, a Houston area medical supply company, was arrested on June 3, 2014 at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Yusuf had been indicted for conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, and aggravated identity theft and a fugitive since March 2011.
According to the indictment, from June 2007 through May 2009, Yusuf, Aghaegbuna “Ike” Odelugo, James Reese, and others carried out a scheme to defraud Medicare through the marketing of power wheelchairs and accessories, as well as “ortho kits,” which primarily consisted of a bag of orthotic items, including braces, wraps, and supports, and a heat lamp or heat pad. As part of the scheme, the defendant and her co-conspirators illegally obtained protected health information, including names, dates of birth, and Medicare numbers from elderly individuals. Yusuf and her co-conspirators supplied beneficiaries with kits and power wheelchairs which were not prescribed or otherwise authorized by a physician and which were not wanted by the beneficiaries. Claims were submitted by the defendant and her co-conspirators for approximately 790 beneficiaries located primarily in Texas and Louisiana. In some instances, physicians’ signatures were forged and false claims were submitted to Medicare in the names of Medicare beneficiaries who were deceased. By means of fraudulent billing practices, the defendant and her co-conspirators unlawfully submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare of more than $3.4 million and obtained more than $1.6 million.
Yusuf appeared in federal court in Houston for an initial appearance and is being transferred to the Eastern District of Texas.
Odelugo and Reese were indicted for their involvement in similar health care fraud schemes. "Ike" Odelugo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, and money laundering and was sentenced to 72 months in federal prison. The loss to Medicare as a result of Odelugo’s scheme was approximately $9.9 million. James Reese pleaded guilty to health care fraud and tax evasion and was sentenced to 180 months in federal prison. The loss to Medicare as a result of Reese’s scheme was approximately $8.6 million.
If convicted, Yusuf faces up to 10 years in prison for each count of conspiracy and health care fraud and up to 2 years in prison for each count of aggravated identity theft. A grand jury indictment is not evidence of guilt.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), the Texas Office of the Attorney General – Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (OAG-MFCU), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel C. Kummerfeld is prosecuting this case.