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Press Release

Two nurses sent to prison for illegal kickback scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

HOUSTON – Two Houston area residents have been ordered to federal prison today after admitting to paying kickbacks to marketers and a physician, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Joseph Nwankwo, 59, Houston, and Stacey Ajaja, 51, Richmond, pleaded guilty Nov. 2, 2022, and March 11, 2022, respectively, to conspiracy to defraud the United States and paying and receiving illegal health care kickbacks.

Today, U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks ordered Nwankwo to serve 36 months in federal prison, while Ajaja received a 14-month-term of imprisonment. Both must also serve three years of supervised release following completion of the prison terms. Nwankwo must pay $1,218,615.13 in restitution to Medicare, while Ajaja was ordered to pay $238,164.69.

Nwankwo and Ajaja co-owned Hefty Healthcare Services Inc.

At the time of their pleas, they admitted that from 2014 through 2016, both obtained patient referrals by paying marketers and patients. Nwankwo further admitted to bribing a physician to authorize medically unnecessary home health services for Hefty patients.

Nwankwo and Ajaja were permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

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.

Updated March 27, 2023

Health Care Fraud