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July 13, 2010

DME COMPANY OPERATOR SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR DEFRAUDING MEDICARE

U.S. recovers $1.1 million in cash, forfeits Cadillac and $400,000 home purchased with proceeds of scam

(HOUSTON, TX) – Sandra Thurman Patino, 46, the operator of two Houston area durable medical equipment (DME) companies, has been sentenced to four years in federal prison without parole for her role in a $3.9 million motorized wheelchair scam and ordered to pay restitution to Medicare, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced today.

On Monday, July 12, 2010, U. S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes sentenced Patino to 48 months imprisonment to be followed by a three year term of supervised release during which she is expressly prohibited from seeking employment with any company that bills Medicare or Medicaid.  Judge Hughes further ordered Patino to surrender herself to federal authorities this morning to begin serving her sentence.  She has surrendered. 

Patino, Katrice Oliver, and Anthony Thurman, both 29, were involved in operating two Houston durable medical equipment companies, Thurman Family Medical Services and Seniors Comfort & Caring Medical Services. Between 2002 through 2003, they fraudulently billed Medicare for durable medical equipment, primarily for motorized wheelchairs and related accessories, but delivered less expensive scooters.  In all, the two companies billed Medicare approximately $3.9 million and were paid approximately $2.6 million. More than 99 percent of the two companies’ claims involved motorized wheelchairs and related accessories.

Most of the fraudulent claims billed upon by the two companies involved prescriptions sold to Patino by Dr. Lewis Gottlieb. Patino sold wheelchair prescriptions to other durable medical equipment companies, besides the two she helped run. Gottlieb has pleaded guilty to receiving kickbacks for signing prescriptions for patients who did not meet the medical necessity requirements to receive motorized wheelchair, and is currently serving a lengthy prison term.

The United States has recovered approximately $1.1 million from bank accounts related to the fraud, and seized and sold a Cadillac and a $400,000 home, both purchased with proceeds of the fraud. The recovered funds have been returned to Medicare. After credit for the seized amounts, the court has also ordered Patino to pay the remaining amount of approximately $1.46 million in restitution to Medicare.

Two co-defendants, Katrice Oliver, 29, and Anthony Thurman, 29, were previously convicted and sentenced to five years terms of probation for their roles in the scheme.  Anthony Thurman was further ordered to serve every weekend for a period of nine months in federal custody.

This case was the result of the investigative efforts of the FBI, the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Unit in Houston; Health & Human Services-Office of the Inspector General, Office of Investigations; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Special Assistant United States Attorney Suzanne Bradley prosecuted the case.

 

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