Houston Nurse Guilty in East Texas Health Care Kickback Scheme
TYLER, Texas – A 54-year-old Houston Registered Nurse has pleaded guilty to federal violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney Joseph D. Brown today.
Beryl-Anne Tufon Lobe pleaded guilty to conspiracy to pay for patient referrals in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute today before U.S. Magistrate Judge John D. Love.
According to information presented in court, Lobe, a registered nurse, was the sole owner of Axion Healthcare Services, LLC. Based in Missouri City, Texas, Axion provided home health services to Medicare beneficiaries in the Eastern District of Texas and elsewhere. From approximately May-August 2015, Lobe engaged in a conspiracy to pay for patient referrals, in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute. To find eligible Medicare beneficiaries, Lobe made illegal kickback payments to community liaisons – also known as “recruiters” or “marketers” – who recruited and referred Medicare beneficiaries to Axion. Kickbacks were also paid to Medicare beneficiaries for the purpose of arranging for home health services. Axion then billed Medicare more than $225,000 for home health services purportedly provided to those beneficiaries who had been obtained through these kickback arrangements.
The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting, or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by federally-funded programs, including Medicare, TRICARE, and Medicaid. The Anti-Kickback Statute is intended to ensure that medical providers’ judgments are not compromised by improper financial incentives and are instead based on the best interests of their patients.
Under federal statutes, Lobe faces up to 5 years in federal prison at sentencing. The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the State of Texas Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney L. Frank Coan, Jr.