Houston Physician and Another Sent to Federal Prison in Health Care Fraud Conspiracy
HOUSTON - Dr. Enyibuaku Rita Uzoaga, 43, has been ordered to serve 42 months and pay restitution to Medicare and Medicaid as a result of her six convictions of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. A federal jury sitting in Houston returned guilty verdicts Nov. 3, 2015, against Uzoaga following four hours of deliberation and a six-day trial.
Today, U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. handed Uzoaga a 42-month sentence to be followed by three years of supervised release. She was further ordered to pay a $389,285 in restitution. In handing down the sentence, Judge Werlein noted the excessive number of vestibular tests that Uzoaga billed over an approximate four-year-period. One patient was billed for 1,200 tests after seeing Uzoaga only once. Evidence at trial showed patients only need one or two of these diagnostic tests in a lifetime.
Co-defendant Charles Harris, 55, who had pleaded guilty prior to trial, was sentenced earlier this month to 33 months in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release for his involvement in the Uzoaga case and two other vestibular indictments in the Southern District of Texas. In all three cases, Harris has been ordered to pay $1,500,203.72 in restitution to Medicare and $103,268.64 in restitution to Medicaid.
At trial, the jury heard that from approximately 2006 through 2010, Uzoaga, Harris and others falsely billed Medicare and Medicaid for numerous, unnecessary vestibular diagnostic tests. Some patients were billed for hundreds of tests, some for more than a 1,000. The evidence at trial showed that the testing by Harris and his employees was either not performed, not medically necessary and/or not performed by licensed individuals.
Vestibular diagnostic testing is used to diagnose a person for vertigo or dizziness. After being diagnosed, patients usually undergo physical therapy, take medication or undergo surgery as treatment.
As a result of this unlawful scheme between Harris and Uzoaga alone, Medicare and Medicaid were billed approximately $653,970 in submitted, fraudulent vestibular diagnostic claims. Medicare and Medicaid paid $389,285 on those claims.
Vestibular testing accounted for 23 percent of Uzoaga's income from Medicare and Medicaid.
At trial, Uzoaga attempted to convince the jury that she was unaware of the false billings. The jury did not believe her story and found Uzoaga guilty as charged.
Previously released on bond, Uzoaga was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. Harris is in custody.
The charges are the result of the investigative efforts of the Texas Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations and the FBI. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Bradley and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tina Ansari prosecuted the case.