Seven Houston-area Residents Charged in $5 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
Seven Houston-area residents who worked for a home health agency have been charged for their alleged participation in a $5 million Medicare fraud scheme, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced. The defendants made their initial appearance today in U.S. District Court in Houston before Magistrate Judge John R. Froeschner.
An indictment filed June 21, 2010, in U.S. District Court in Houston charges Clifford Ubani, 52; Ezinne Ubani, 45; Princewill Njoku, 51; Caroline Njoku, 45; Mary Ellis, 54; Michelle Turner, 42; and Cynthia Garza-Williams, 49, with conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Clifford Ubani, Princewill Njoku, Caroline Njoku, Ellis, Turner and Garza-Williams are also charged with paying and/or receiving kickbacks. Ezinne Ubani, Princewill Njoku and Ellis are charged with making false statements in the submission of claims to the Medicare program.
According to the indictment, Clifford Ubani, Ezinne Ubani, Princewill Njoku and Caroline Njoku were the owners and operators of Family Healthcare Services. The indictment alleges that these owners and operators submitted false and fraudulent claims to the Medicare program for purportedly providing home health care services that were not medically necessary and/or not rendered. According to the indictment, the Medicare program paid Family Healthcare Services approximately $5 million for the false and fraudulent claims.
According to the indictment, Caroline Njoku, Ellis, Turner and Garza-Williams recruited Medicare beneficiaries to be placed at Family Healthcare Services for skilled nursing services, and in return were paid kickbacks by Ezinne Ubani and Princewill Njoku for the referrals. Ezinne Ubani, Princewill Njoku, Ellis and Garza-Williams falsified patient files to make it appear that Medicare beneficiaries qualified for and received home health care services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided.
The maximum sentence for conspiracy to commit health care fraud is 10 years in prison. The maximum sentence for each count of paying and/or receiving kickbacks, and making false statements in determining rights for benefit and payment by Medicare is five years in prison. The indictment seeks forfeiture of assets held by the defendants.
An indictment is merely a charge and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Today’s charges were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno of the Southern District of Texas; Special Agent-in-Charge Richard C. Powers of the FBI’s Houston field office; Special Agent-in-Charge Mike Fields of the Dallas Regional Office of HHS Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations; and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Charles D. Reed and Sam S. Sheldon of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and 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 Southern District of Texas.
Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in seven districts have obtained indictments of more than 585 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $1.3 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 the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov .