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Monday, January 28, 2019

South Texas Clinic Owner Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for Her Role in $20 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

A clinic owner and operator was sentenced to 360 months in prison on Jan. 24  for her role in a scheme to defraud Medicare out of payments for medical services.  Ann Shepherd was convicted at trial in the Southern District of Texas along with her co-defendants, Dr. John Ramirez and Yvette Nwoko. 

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick of the Southern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Field Office, Special Agent in Charge C.J. Porter of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Dallas Region, and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) made the announcement.

Ann Nwoko Shepherd, 62, of Houston, Texas was sentenced by U.S. District Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas.  Judge Hittner also ordered the defendant to pay $20.928 million in restitution and to forfeit $250,000.

According to evidence presented at trial, from in or around December 2011 to in or around August 2015, John Ramirez, M.D., a physician, Ann Shepherd and Yvette Nwoko conspired and schemed to defraud Medicare out of payments for medical services.  Shepherd owned and operated Southwest Total Medical Inc., a purported medical clinic doing business as Amex Medical Clinic in Houston.  Shepherd, along with Yvette Nwoko sold medical orders and other documents signed by Dr. Ramirez to home-health agencies in and around Houston.  Dr. Ramirez falsely certified in these medical orders information about the patient’s medical condition and need for medical services.  Co-conspirators at home-health agencies then used the false and fraudulent paperwork signed by Dr. Ramirez and sold by Ann Shepherd and Yvette Nwoko to bill to, and receive payment from, Medicare for medical services that were not medically necessary or not provided. 

Ann Shepherd also caused Amex Medical Clinic to bill Medicare for purported physician services that were actually provided by an unlicensed practitioner, if at all.

 In all, Ann Shepherd caused Medicare to pay approximately $20 million on false and fraudulent claims submitted during the charged conspiracy.

Dr. John Ramirez is expected to be sentenced on Jan. 29 and Yvette Nwoko is expected to be sentenced on April 18, before the Honorable David Hittner.

This case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and the Texas Attorney General’s MFCU.  Trial Attorney Scott Armstrong of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tina Ansari of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case. 

The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, , which maintains 14 strike forces operating in 23 districts, has charged nearly 4,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $14 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Health Care Fraud
Press Release Number: 
Updated January 30, 2019