Scheme Involved Nearly $3 Million in Fraudulent Billings
DALLAS — Following a seven-day trial, before U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey, a federal jury has convicted three defendants on health care fraud and related charges stemming from their involvement in the operation of Euless Healthcare Corporation (EHC) and Medic Healthcare Incorporated (Medic), announced U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas. ECH was located on West Bedford Euless Road in Hurst Texas, and Medic, which operated from October 2009 to May 2011, was located on Bonhomme Road in Houston.
Specifically, defendants Godwin Umotong, 58, and Comfort Gates, 46, both of Houston, were each convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In addition, Umotong was also convicted on five counts of health care fraud and Gates was convicted on two counts of health care fraud. Umotong was an employee of EHC and Medic; Gates was an employee of Medic. Defendant Vagharshak Smbatyan, 61, of Grenada Hills, California, was convicted on one count of making a false statement to a federal agency.
The conspiracy count and each of the substantive health care fraud counts carry a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution. The false statement count carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution. Judge Godbey set a July 15, 2013, sentencing date for all three defendants convicted today.
Ovsanna Agopian, the operator of both EHC and Medic, pleaded guilty in November 2012 to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Agopian, 58, is a resident of Houston; her husband is Vagharshak Smbatyan. Three other defendants charged in the case, Boghos Babadjanian, 55, of Sherman Oaks, CA; Leslie Omagbemi, 56, of Dallas, TX; and Munda Massaquoi, 69, of Houston, TX, also pleaded guilty to their roles in the fraud. All are awaiting sentencing.
According to documents filed in the case and evidence presented at trial, Agopian, Umotong, Omagbemi, Massaquoi and Gates conspired together to submit, or cause to be submitted, fraudulent claims to Medicare for diagnostic tests and office visits. Agopian recruited unlicensed doctors to work for EHC and Medic by telling them that they would treat beneficiaries in the beneficiaries’ homes. Medicare does not pay for services performed by unlicensed persons. Nevertheless, these recruits went to beneficiaries’ homes and purported to conduct medical examinations, including ordering diagnostic tests. In total, more than $2.7 million was fraudulently billed, and of that amount, Medicare paid more than $1.3 million.
The case was investigated by the Dallas Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) Strike Force, which includes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), the FBI and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael McCarthy and Michael Elliott are in charge of the prosecution.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the HEAT Strike Force, go to: http://www.stopmedicarefraud.gov/.