Owner of Suburban Telemarketing Company Sentenced to a Year in Prison in Patients-For-Cash Kickback Scheme
CHICAGO — The head of a Homewood telemarketing company has been sentenced to a year in federal prison for pocketing illegal kickbacks in exchange for referring patients to home health care agencies.
As the owner of Serenity Marketing Inc., which did business as Serenity Living, SUNDAE WILLIAMS used unsolicited phone calls to recruit patients, including Medicare beneficiaries, for home health care services. Williams then referred those patients to several Chicago-area nursing agencies in exchange for payments on a per-patient basis.
A jury last year convicted Williams, 47, of South Holland, on one count of conspiracy to solicit and receive remuneration in return for referring Medicare patients, and six counts of soliciting and receiving remuneration in return for referring Medicare patients.
U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp Jr. on Wednesday imposed the prison sentence of 12 months and one day. In addition, Judge Tharp ordered Williams to forfeit $599,000, which represents the proceeds of her crimes.
The sentence was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Region of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General; Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Kristie Osswald, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Railroad Retirement Board Office of the Inspector General.
“For at least four years, defendant Sundae Williams helped fuel a system in which skilled nursing agencies and doctors defrauded Medicare by billing for unnecessary services that Medicare beneficiaries did not need or qualify for,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Chahn Lee argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “Defendant’s offense here is serious because it led to the kinds of waste and fraud that the Anti-Kickback Statute was designed to prevent.”
Williams is one of several defendants convicted as part of the federal investigation. The prior convictions include JAMES ADEMIJU, a nurse from Matteson who operated two suburban nursing agencies; Dr. ALAN NEWMAN, one of the doctors at Suburban Home Physicians, which did business as Doctor at Home; and DIANA JOCELYN GUMILA, a nurse and manager of Suburban Home Physicians.
Evidence at Williams’ trial revealed that Serenity employees were trained to cold-call Medicare beneficiaries and convince them to accept home health services. If a Medicare beneficiary expressed interest, Serenity employees obtained the beneficiary’s personal information, including their Medicare number, and provided it to certain home health agencies that had agreed to pay Serenity for such referrals.
The investigation is being carried out by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which is part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team, a joint initiative between the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to prevent fraud and to enforce anti-fraud laws around the country. Dozens of defendants have been charged in numerous fraud cases since the strike force began operating in Chicago in 2011.
The government is represented Mr. Lee and Cornelius Vandenberg.