Las Vegas Woman Pleads Guilty to Acting as the Straw Owner of a Los Angeles Medical Supply Company That Submitted More Than $3.5 Million in False Claims to Medicare
WASHINGTON – A Las Vegas woman pleaded guilty today to falsely representing to Medicare that she owned a Los Angeles-area durable medical equipment (DME) company that was actually owned and operated by her brother, and used by her brother and others to submit more than $3.5 million in false claims to Medicare, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced.
Jummal Joy Ibrahim, 55, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge George H. King in the Central District of California. Ibrahim admitted that between January 2006 and September 2009, she allowed her brother, Christopher Iruke, to use her identity to conceal his ownership and control of Contempo Inc., dba Contempo Medical Supplies. Contempo was a fraudulent DME supply company located in Inglewood, Calif., which Iruke and others used to submit false claims to Medicare for expensive, high-end power wheelchairs and other DME.
According to court documents, in 2006, Iruke told Ibrahim that Medicare would not accredit Iruke’s DME company, Pascon Medical Supply, and as a result, Iruke had to close Pascon. Iruke asked Ibrahim if he could use her name, Social Security number and driver’s license to open Contempo. Ibrahim agreed to serve as the straw owner of Contempo even though she knew nothing about the DME business and did not intend to have any role in the operation of Contempo or share in its profits. Ibrahim sent Iruke a copy of her Social Security card and driver’s license, signed articles of incorporation and other documents necessary to the formation of Contempo, and allowed Iruke and others to use her identity to obtain a Medicare provider number for Contempo which Iruke then used to submit false claims to Medicare.
Ibrahim also admitted that she opened a bank account in her name for Contempo, but that she allowed Iruke unrestricted access to the account so that he could transact business in her name. Medicare reimbursement payments to Contempo were deposited into this bank account.
Ibrahim admitted that as a result of her conduct, Iruke and others were able to conceal Iruke’s ownership and control of Contempo and submit approximately $3.5 million in false power wheelchair and DME claims to Medicare. Medicare reimbursed Contempo approximately $1.7 million on these false claims.
At sentencing, scheduled for June 13, 2011, Ibrahim faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Iruke was indicted in October 2009 on health care fraud charges. His trial is scheduled to begin on May 3, 2011, and he is presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Today’s guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. for the Central District of California; Tony Sidley, Assistant Chief of the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse; Glenn R. Ferry, Special Agent-in-Charge for the Los Angeles Region of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG); and Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jonathan T. Baum of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case is being investigated by HHS-OIG.
The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.
Since their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in nine districts have charged 1,000 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.3 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about HEAT, go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov