Federal Jury Convicts Birmingham Doctor and Nurse for $7.8 Million Health Care Fraud, Unlawful Drug Distribution and Money Laundering
BIRMINGHAM – A federal jury today convicted Dr. PATRICK EMEKA IFEDIBA, 60, of Shelby County and Patrick Ifediba’s sister, NGOZI JUSTINA OZULIGBO, 49, of Trussville of numerous crimes stemming from their involvement with Care Complete Medical Clinic, located in Birmingham, Alabama, announced U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town, FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr., and Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge Clay Morris.
Following a four-week trial before Judge David R. Proctor, the jury convicted Ifediba of thirty-five counts involving unlawful drug distribution, health care fraud, and money laundering. Specifically, Ifediba was convicted of: (i) one count of conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances by means of prescriptions; (ii) fourteen counts of illegal prescribing; (iii) one count of maintaining drug-involved premises; (iv) one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud; (v) ten counts of health care fraud; (vi) one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering; (vii) three counts of concealment money laundering; and (viii) four counts of engaging in monetary transactions involving criminally derived property greater than $10,000.
For her part in the offenses, Ozuligbo, a licensed practical nurse, was convicted of twelve counts involving health care fraud and money laundering. Specifically, Ozuligbo was convicted of: (i) one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud; (ii) nine counts of health care fraud; (vi) one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering; and (vii) one count of concealment money laundering. No sentencing date has been set.
“This jury verdict should put all health care providers on notice that sacrificing care for greed will land you in federal court,” Town said. “And we have bed space in federal prison for all that do.”
“In defrauding the Medicare system, Ifediba violated a sacred oath taken by physicians but above all he violated the law,” Sharp said. “He submitted fraudulent claims to both Medicare and other health care insurers as part of the scheme. The FBI and our partners will continue to hold medical professionals accountable for abusing positions of trust in the community and for harming the financial integrity of our health care system. The FBI remains dedicated to combating health care fraud and to doing our part in reducing the impact that opioids have on our nation.”
“Today, a jury of community members resoundingly confirmed what DEA had known all along,” Morris said. “Dr. Ifediba had long forgotten to care for his patients. Instead, he chose to fill his bank accounts with cash. Sadly, Dr. Ifediba is yet another example of putting profit over his professional responsibility to help those in need. For over three years, DEA and our law enforcement colleagues investigated and ultimately prosecuted Dr. Ifediba for violations of many federal laws including drug distribution and money laundering. Collectively, we are committed to protecting our communities from the scourge of opioid abuse and those who profit from it. We will tirelessly protect the innocent and vigorously investigate those who prey on the addictions of others.”
Evidence at the trial proved that Ifediba was a doctor of internal medicine who owned Care Complete Medical Clinic (“CCMC”) and operated it with his wife, Dr. Uchenna Ifediba. The evidence showed that the doctors operated CCMC as a pill mill. They routinely prescribed dangerous and addictive opioids for the primary purpose of making money from repeated return office visits. Ifediba not only overprescribed opioids, he also prescribed dangerous cocktails of drugs, including one called “the holy trinity,” that produces a heroin-like high, but creates a significant risk of an overdose. Although Ifediba was not a pain management specialist and CCMC did not hold itself out as a pain management clinic, approximately 85% of its patients received opioid prescriptions.
In addition to operating a pill mill, the evidence showed that Ifediba and others, including Ozuligbo, cheated and stole millions of dollars from Medicare and private health insurers in connection with an allergy fraud scheme. Although neither had any training in allergy medicine, the pair would order patients with health insurance to take allergy tests and submit to allergy treatments they didn’t need. Ifediba even forced some patients to take unwanted allergy tests by withholding their opioid prescriptions if they refused. Ifediba then ordered expensive allergy therapy treatments for all these patients even when the patients tested negative.
The purpose of the allergy scheme was to increase CCMC’s revenue. CCMC billed health insurers more than $7.8M over the course of the scheme. Representatives of Medicare and several private insurance companies testified at trial. The evidence showed that Ifediba billed one of the private insurers nearly $3M for allergy services over a two-and-a-half year period. Ifediba was their number one biller in the state of Alabama, accounting for sixty-one percent of all allergy-related billing. The insurance company’s next highest biller was an allergy and asthma center employing eight doctors and nine nurse practitioners.
The evidence at trial showed that Ifediba opened numerous bank accounts and used shell corporations in order to hide the money he made from his crimes. Ifediba moved the illicit funds between bank accounts and used the names of family members, including Ozuligbo, to make it appear as though the bank accounts and companies belonged to someone else. A substantial portion of these illicit funds were used to buy a condominium, annuities, and other investments held in the names of others, but which were for Ifediba’s personal use and benefit.
The charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud both carry maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and distribution of controlled substances both carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Maintaining drug-involved premises carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Money laundering conspiracy and laundering of monetary instruments both carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Engaging in monetary transactions in criminally derived property worth more than $10,000 carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the amount of the criminally derived property involved.
The FBI and DEA investigated the case as part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force operation, which Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mohammad Khatib and Jim Weil are prosecuting.