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Aug. 23, 2010

CELLULAR PHONE STORE OWNER CONVICTED OF MEDICARE AND MEDICAID FRAUD

(HOUSTON) - Aghaegbuna “Ike” Odelugo, 38, of Sugarland, Texas, has been convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud and money laundering, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Charged in April 2010, Odelugo pleaded guilty to each of the three federal counts today before United States District Judge Vanessa Gilmore admitting that from July 2005 through March 2008, he entered into agreements with 14 durable medical equipment (DME) company owners to fraudulently bill Medicare for millions of dollars and split the proceeds. The DME company owners were located in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Michigan.

Odelugo was responsible for having marketers recruit the patients, preparing the paperwork, billing Medicare and delivering the equipment.The DME company owner’s role was to accept delivery of the patient files from Odelugo and to send him his percentage of the proceeds. In every case, Odelugo was given control of the DME's Medicare provider number. Odelugo bought Medicare beneficiary information from recruiters and created paperwork and patient files to give the appearance of a valid claim. He filed the claim electronically with Medicare or Medicaid and sent the patient files to the DME company owners. The proceeds from the false claims were deposited into the DME company's bank account. As much as 75 percent of the fraud proceeds then were transferred to Odelugo.

Odelugo had the DME owners provide him with blank signed checks from the DME bank accounts into which the Medicare proceeds were deposited. Odelugo used his medical billing persons to monitor when the Medicare payments were deposited into those accounts and, once deposited, he used the blank signed checks to move his share of the illegal proceeds to his own bank account.

Odelugo ran the fraudulent scheme from his cellular phone store in Houston. 

The DME items billed to Medicare and Medicaid were either not delivered, not medically necessary, not prescribed by a doctor or up-coded from what was actually delivered. Nearly 89% of the items billed were orthotics and lymph edema pumps. Power wheelchairs and accessories accounted for the other 10%. The total amount paid by Medicare as a result of Odelugo’s scheme  was approximately $9,933,354.27. The defendant received 75% of the illegal proceeds or approximately $7,450,015.50.

In addition to pleading guilty to the criminal charges, Odelugo has agreed to pay restitution of $9,933,354 to the Medicare and Medicaid programs. He also agreed to forfeit a minimum of $6,000,000 in illegal proceeds to the United States.

Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 13, 2010. The conspiracy conviction carries a maximum penalty of five years in a federal prison and a $250,000 fine. The health care fraud conviction carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in a federal prison and a $250,000 fine, while a conviction for money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and a fine of $500,000. Parole has been abolished in the federal prison system.

Odelugo has been on bond since he was charged in April and he will continue on that same bond through sentencing.

The criminal charges are the result of a joint investigation conducted by agents of the United States Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General and the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Al Balboni.

 

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