Two nurses charged in health care fraud and illegal kickback scheme
HOUSTON - Two Houston area nurses are set to appear in federal court on charges they defrauded Medicare of more than $2.1 million, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick.
The indictment, returned under seal Oct. 9, was unsealed today upon the arrests of Joseph Nwankwo, 56, Houston, and Stacey Ajaja, 49, Richmond. They are expected to make their initial appearance at 2 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy K. Johnson today.
According to the indictment, Nwankwo and Ajaja co-owned Hefty Healthcare Services Inc. From 2014 through 2016, Hefty allegedly billed Medicare for home health services that were never provided and not medically necessary. Nwankwo and Ajaja obtained patient referrals by paying marketers and patients and bribed physicians to authorize medically unnecessary home health services for Hefty patients, according to the charges. The indictment also alleges they created phony medical records to perpetrate the healthcare fraud.
Nwankwo and Ajaja are both charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, five counts of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks.
Conspiracy to commit health care fraud and each of the health care fraud charges carry a maximum punishment of 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine, upon conviction. If convicted of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks, they also face a maximum possible punishment of five years and a $25,000 fine.
The Department of Health and Human Services‐Office of Inspector General, Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the FBI conducted the investigation. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Olson is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.