Owners of Home Health Care Agency Sentenced to Prison For Taking Part in $80 Million Medicaid Fraud
Defendants Used Money to Finance a Lavish Lifestyle
WASHINGTON –Florence Bikundi and her husband, Michael D. Bikundi, Sr., the owners of Global Healthcare, Inc., a home care agency, were sentenced today to prison terms for health care fraud, money laundering, and other charges stemming from a scheme in which they and others defrauded the District of Columbia Medicaid program of over $80 million.
The sentences were announced by Channing D. Phillips, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Nicholas DiGiulio, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), for the region that includes Washington, D.C.; Brian J. Ebert, Special Agent in Charge, Washington Field Office, U.S. Secret Service, and Daniel W. Lucas, Inspector General for the District of Columbia (D.C. OIG).
The two defendants, of Mitchellville, Md., were found guilty on Nov. 12, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Honorable Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell sentenced Florence Bikundi to 10 years in prison. She sentenced Michael D. Bikundi, Sr. to seven years in prison. Following their prison terms, the Bikundis will be placed on three years of supervised release. Judge Howell earlier ordered them to forfeit over $11 million seized from 76 bank accounts; their residence, worth approximately $1 million; $73,000 in cash seized from their residence, and five luxury vehicles with a total purchase price of more than $400,000. She also imposed a forfeiture money judgment of $39,989,956 on both defendants. Finally, Judge Howell ordered the defendants to pay $80,620,929 in restitution to D.C. Medicaid.
“The investigation of this case exposed a massive health care fraud that cheated the District of Columbia Medicaid program of more than $80 million that could have been spent on people who needed services,” said U.S. Attorney Phillips. “Florence and Michael Bikundi enriched themselves for years by operating a rogue home care agency. Hopefully the sentences today will serve as a deterrent to other unscrupulous health care providers who aim to steal the taxpayers’ money.”
“The Bikundis funded their lavish lifestyle by defrauding the District of Columbia’s Medicaid program designed to provide for those in need,” said Assistant Director in Charge Abbate of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “The FBI will continue to pursue criminals who target our health care system in order to protect its integrity and to prevent fraud. I commend the dedicated agents, analysts, and prosecutors who worked to bring this case to justice.”
“It’s outrageous that fraudster couple Florence and Michael Bikundi stole millions of Medicaid funds meant to provide home health services to vulnerable patients just to fuel their own lavish lifestyle,” said Special Agent in Charge DiGiulio of the HHS Office of Inspector General. “But today’s prison sentences show the results of our continued work with other law enforcement agencies to crack down on greedy individuals who rip off government health care programs.”
“Health care fraud and other similar elaborate fraudulent schemes are not victimless crimes,” said Special Agent in Charge Ebert of the U.S. Secret Service’s Washington Field Office. “This type of fraud can have a significant detrimental effect on our nation’s financial infrastructure and our local community’s economy. The Secret Service will continue to tirelessly pursue justice by investigating and dismantling these types of fraudulent schemes.”
“I hope this sentence sends a clear message that we will continue to investigate and propose prosecution for anyone who engages in corruption or fraudulent activities against the District government,” said Inspector General Lucas. “I applaud the hard work of my D.C. OIG Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) staff for bringing this case to its rightful close.”
Florence Bikundi, 53, also known as Florence Ngwe and Florence Igwacho, has been in custody since her arrest in February 2014. She was found guilty by the jury of 12 charges: one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, two counts of health care fraud; one count of Medicaid fraud; and seven counts of money laundering. Michael D. Bikundi, Sr., 63, was found guilty of 10 charges: one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, one count of health care fraud; and seven counts of money laundering.
According to evidence presented at trial, Florence Bikundi, a former nurse, and her husband owned Global Healthcare, Inc. According to the government’s evidence, Florence Bikundi was not entitled to take part in the Medicaid program and fraudulently got approval as a provider. Then, the government’s evidence showed, she and her husband led a scheme to bill Medicaid for services that were not fully provided – recruiting others, including family members, into the scam, and creating fraudulent paperwork to hide the illegal activity.
The D.C. Medicaid program is funded jointly by District of Columbia tax dollars and federal tax dollars. Medicaid provides for home care services to be performed by personal care aides, working for eligible home care agencies. Doctors or advanced practice registered nurses must examine beneficiaries and authorize them to receive these services. The aides are to follow a plan of care and assist Medicaid beneficiaries in performing activities of daily living, such as getting in and out of bed, bathing, dressing, keeping track of medication, and so forth.
In 1999, Florence Bikundi went by her maiden name of Florence Igwacho. In August 1999, the Virginia Board of Nursing revoked the nursing license of Florence Igwacho. In March 2000, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General notified Florence Igwacho in writing that she was excluded from participation in Medicare, Medicaid, and all federal health care programs due to the revocation.
Florence Bikundi subsequently concealed her past – namely, the Medicaid exclusion and the revocation of her nursing license - when she applied for a Medicaid provider number for Global Healthcare in June 2009 using the name of Florence Bikundi. She also used three forged signatures on her Medicaid provider application. Florence Bikundi married Michael Bikundi in September 2009.
From August 2009 through February 2014, Florence and Michael Bikundi used Global HealthCare to carry out a massive fraud, the government’s evidence showed. Year after year, the D.C. Medicaid program was billed for personal home health aide services that were not fully provided to Medicaid beneficiaries. Phony time sheets, patient files and employment files were created. Global Healthcare generated increasing amounts of payments as the years continued, going from roughly $1.35 million in 2009 to $14.27 million in 2011 to $27.16 million in 2013.
According to the government’s evidence, the Bikundis used the proceeds to finance a lavish lifestyle. In just over three years, they spent $1.3 million to purchase and renovate a newly built home. They also used the proceeds for a $140,000 Land Rover, a $120,000 Porsche, a $75,000 Mercedes Benz, a $70,000 Cadillac and a $36,000 BMW.
Seven others earlier pled guilty to charges in the investigation. They include Florence Bikundi’s son, Carlson M. Igwacho, 35, of Bowie, Md.; Florence Bikundi’s two sisters, Irene M. Igwacho, 50, of Bowie, Md., and Berenice W. Igwacho, 31, of Bowie, Md.; James Mbide, 55, of Laurel, Md; Nicola C. White, 34, of Laurel, Md.; Elvis N. Atabe, 57, of Adelphia Md., and Melissa A. Williams, 33, of Silver Spring, Md.
Two others were indicted on charges in the investigation but remain fugitives: Christian S. Asongcha, 39, formerly of Lanham, Md., and Atawan Mundu John, 39, formerly of Washington, DC.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Phillips, Assistant Director in Charge Abbate, Special Agent in Charge DiGiulio, Special Agent in Charge Ebert, and Inspector General Lucas commended the work of those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Secret Service, as well as a team from the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the District of Columbia’s Office of the Inspector General that included Director Brent Wolfingbarger; Special Agents Mike Kellam, Sandra Adams, Victor Richardson, and Senior Auditor LaShawn Brooks. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance of the District of Columbia’s Department of Health Care Finance and other agencies.
They commended the work of those who prosecuted the case, including Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lionel A. André, Anthony Saler, and Michelle Bradford, of the Office’s Fraud and Public Corruption Section. They acknowledged the efforts of Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher B. Brown, of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, who assisted during the forfeiture proceedings, and Criminal Investigator Nicole Hinson, also of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, who was the prosecution’s law enforcement representative during the trial.
Finally, they expressed appreciation for the assistance in this case and related investigations that was provided by Arvind K. Lal, Chief of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section; Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zia Faruqui, Ted Radway, Michael Friedman, Chrisellen Kolb, and Michelle Zamarin; Financial Analyst Bryan J. Snitselaar; Deputy U.S. Marshal Wayne Rollock of the U.S. Marshals Service; Paralegal Specialists Toni Donato, Donna Galindo, Krishawn Graham, Tasha Harris, Corinne Kleinman, and Kristy Penny; Legal Assistants Angela Lawrence, Jessica McCormick, and Christopher Samson; Litigation Support Specialist Ron Royal, and former Forensic Accountant Maria Boodoo.