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Oct. 26, 2009

THREE MORE CHARGED IN $45 MILLION PHYSICAL THERAPY FRAUD CASE

(HOUSTON) – A 51-count superseding indictment charging three additional defendants for allegedly conspiring with Umawa Oke Imo to commit health care fraud and other offenses arising from a $45 million health care fraud scheme has been unsealed, United States Attorney Tim Johnson and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced today.

Imo, 54, born in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and owner of City Nursing Services of Texas Inc., has been in federal custody without bond since June 26, 2009, awaiting trial on 36 counts of conspiracy, health care fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. Today, a superseding indictment which incorporates the original 36 counts and adds 15 new counts and names three new defendants was unsealed. Two of the newly named defendants, Kenneth Anokam, 54, a naturalized citizen, and Joann White, 45, both Houston residents, were arrested by agents from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Texas Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009. The third defendant, Dr. Thaddeus Hume, 62, a Houston-area physician, surrendered himself to federal authorities this morning. All three newly named defendants appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Stephen Wm. Smith this afternoon. The United States has moved for the detention of Anokam and White; Hume will be released on bond.

The superseding indictment returned under seal on Oct. 19, 2009, charges all four defendants with 39 counts of health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Imo, Anokam and White are also charged with three counts of mail fraud and Imo is charged with five counts of money laundering.

According to the superseding indictment, approximately $45 million dollars worth of claims were billed to Medicare and Medicaid by City Nursing over approximately two and a half years, almost all for physical therapy services not provided to patients at City Nursing, not provided by a licensed or qualified physical therapist and not provided by appropriately-supervised physical therapy assistants and physical therapy aides. Approximately $30 million dollars was paid by Medicare and Medicaid for these claims.

Imo allegedly did not hire any licensed or qualified physical therapists to work at City Nursing, although City Nursing billed Medicare for millions of dollars worth of physical therapy services. It is further alleged that Imo, Anokam and White paid money to Medicare beneficiaries and recruiters and created false and fraudulent patient files to reflect physical therapy services that were not provided. Hume allegedly allowed City Nursing to bill for physical therapy services under his Medicare number, even though he did not perform or supervise any physical therapy and only went to the clinic on one occasion. The mail fraud charges center around three paper checks valued at approximately $180,448 that were mailed by the Medicaid contract administrator, Texas Medicaid and Healthcare Partnership (TMHP) to City Nursing in lieu of electronic fund deposits. The money laundering charges relate to five transactions totaling $2,805,195 from a City Nursing bank account for referrals, the purchase and shipping of tankers to Lagos, Nigeria, and a check for more than $1 million payable to Imo himself.

The possible punishment upon conviction for health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud and money laundering are up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Mail fraud carries a possible punishment of up to 20 years in prison upon conviction.

The investigation into Imo, Anokam, White, Hume and City Nursing is the result of a joint investigation being conducted by agents of the FBI, IRS–CID, HHS-OIG and the MFCU. Special Assistant United States Attorney Julie Redlinger is prosecuting the case.

An indictment is an accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
 All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

 

 

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