Louisiana Medical Equipment Company Owner Pleads Guilty in $21 Million Fraud Scheme
WASHINGTON – An owner of multiple Baton Rouge medical equipment companies pleaded guilty today for her role in a Medicare fraud scheme involving false claims and illegal kickback payments for unnecessary durable medical equipment (DME), announced the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Louisiana State Attorney General’s Office.
Chikenna D. Jones, 36, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge James J. Brady of the Middle District of Louisiana to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay and receive health care kickbacks.
According to court documents, Jones owned and operated Healthcare 1 LLC, Medical 1 Patient Services LLC, Lifeline Healthcare Services Inc., and Rose Medical Inc., Louisiana-based companies that fraudulently billed DME to the Medicare program from 2004 to 2009. She and Henry Jones, who was her husband at the time, hired patient recruiters to obtain prescriptions for DME such as leg braces, arm braces, power wheel chairs and wheel chair accessories. Specifically, the patient recruiters obtained information from Medicare beneficiaries and used the information to acquire prescriptions for DME from the beneficiaries’ primary care physicians. Chikenna Jones paid the recruiters illegal kickbacks for the DME prescriptions, which she knew were not medically necessary.
Court documents allege that the companies owned and operated by Chikenna Jones billed Medicare for more than $21 million.
Jones faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on the conspiracy to commit health care fraud count and five years in prison on the conspiracy to defraud the United States count. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Today’s plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. of the Middle District of Louisiana; Mike Fields, Special Agent-in-Charge of Dallas Region for the HHS Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG); David Welker, Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s New Orleans division; and Louisiana State Attorney General James Buddy Caldwell.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys David Maria and Abigail Taylor and Assistant Chief William Pericak of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Louisiana State Attorney General’s Office (MFCU), and 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 Middle District of Louisiana.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,160 defendants that collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $2.9 billion. In addition, HHS’s 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 the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to www.stopmedicarefraud.gov .