Medicare Fraud Case Exceeds $5 Million

   HOUSTON, TEX – 4/19/2017 - A Houston-Area registered nurse pleaded guilty on April 17 for his role in a Medicare fraud scheme that resulted in losses to Medicare of more than $5 million.
   Charles Esechie, 47, of Katy, Texas, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake of the Southern District of Texas to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Esechie is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Lake on Aug. 17, 2017
   According to the plea, from 2008 through 2015, Esechie worked as a nurse for both Harris County, Texas, Hospital District (Harris County) and Baptist Home Care Providers Inc. (Baptist), one of five Houston-area home healthcare agencies owned by Godwin Oriakhi. Esechie admitted that while he worked at Baptist, he knew that Oriakhi obtained Medicare patients by paying illegal kickback payments to patient recruiters for referring patients to Baptist for home healthcare services that Esechie knew were medically unnecessary and often not provided. Esechie also admitted that he knew that some of patients referred by the patient recruiters were homeless, and that many patients stayed at Baptist in order to receive kickbacks from Oriakhi rather than actual healthcare.
   Additionally, Esechie admitted that he engaged in a scheme to defraud Medicare through the submission of fraudulent claims for home health care services. Esechie admitted that he completed Baptist’s Medicare documents while working full time as a Harris County nurse, often claiming that he was evaluating patients for Baptist at times when his Harris County employment records showed that he was across town working at a Harris County hospital.
   To accommodate his full-time work schedule at Harris County and to avoid actually having to travel to the homes of Baptist’s patients for evaluations, Esechie admitted that he copied patient and medical information from templates created for him by Orikahi and Baptist’s office staff onto Baptist’s Medicare documents. Esechie also admitted that he saw patients in groups at the home of one of Oriakhi’s patient recruiters and conducted perfunctory examinations that lasted approximately five to 10 minutes, but over-billed Medicare for comprehensive examinations.
   In total, Esechie admitted that he, Oriakhi and others submitted approximately $5,099,970 in fraudulent home healthcare claims to Medicare, and received approximately $4,792,199 on those claims.
   To date, Jermaine Doleman, a patient recruiter, and Idia Oriakhi, Oriakhi’s daughter and the administrator of several of his home healthcare agencies, have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing for their roles in the scheme. Godwin Oriakhi is charged with conspiracy, health care fraud, paying illegal kickbacks and money laundering offenses for his alleged role in the schemes and is scheduled for trial on April 11, 2017. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until convicted beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
   The FBI, HHS-OIG, IRS-CI and MFCU investigated the case, which was brought by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. Senior Trial Attorney Jonathan T. Baum and Trial Attorneys Aleza S. Remis and William S.W. Chang of the Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
   Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Field Office, Special Agent in Charge C.J. Porter of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Dallas Regional Office, Special Agent in Charge D. Richard Goss of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Houston Field Office and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) made the announcement.
   Source: Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force

Coalition Condemns White House Action

   WASHINGTON — 1/27/2017 — Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement after President Trump signed an executive action discriminating against Muslims and banning refugees:
   “President Trump rode a wave of bigotry into the White House and ushered in a new era of hostility against American Muslims. He campaigned as a demagogue and is now governing as a demagogue.
  "Banning or profiling people of faith is ineffective for our national security; it fans flames of bigotry and makes us all less safe.
   "Trump’s recent actions to build a wall around the country, to strike fear in the heart of immigrants, and now toward banning refugees and religious minorities make his America look more like a police state than the republic we truly are.
   "Our republic is stronger and more dynamic because of its refugees, immigrants, and religious diversity. But this administration is governing out of baseless fear and our nation’s immigrants and people of faith are paying a dear price.
   "The administration should immediately cancel these actions, stop the bullying, and govern in a way that’s inclusive and actually makes us all safer.”
  The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights represents a diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States.
   The organization works toward an America as good as its ideals. See: www.civilrights.org.

Contract Conspiracy Brings Prison Sentence

   ALEXANDRIA, Va. – 10/27/2016 - Kenneth Apple, 65, of Beaverton, Oregon, was sentenced to 50 months in prison on October 14 for his role in awarding $2 million in micro-dairy contracts from the U.S. government for use in Iraq. The court also ordered Apple to serve three years of supervised release, pay approximately $1.9 million in restitution, and forfeit $551,838.73.
   According to the court documents and evidence presented at trial, Apple, a former employee with the U.S. Department of State, helped to steer the sole-sourcing of $2 million in micro-dairy contracts to a company in which his son, Jonathan Apple, owned a 50 percent interest. However, Jonathan Apple and his partner had no technical experience in the industry. Kenneth Apple conspired to use his official position to pass on non-public information to his son in order to fraudulently award and administer government contracts. The conspirators further provided false information to, and concealed material details from the U.S. government.
   According to the court documents and evidence presented at trial, Kenneth Apple provided templates and technical specifications used in the proposal submitted by Jonathan Apple and his partner to the U.S. government. In addition, Kenneth Apple caused false and misleading statements to be made to the U.S. government regarding his experience, ownership interest, and the status of the projects. For example, Kenneth Apple directed a conspirator to keep Jonathan Apple’s name off the company’s website and any ownership documents. When federal law enforcement agents confronted Kenneth Apple about the scheme, he made false statements, including that he could not recall the owner of the company that won the micro-dairy contracts and that he did not receive any money from the contracts.
   Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Frank Robey, Director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit (MPFU); and Robert E. Craig, Special Agent in Charge for the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic Field Office, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Uzo Asonye and Katherine Wong are prosecuting the case.
   Source: Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force  (October 14, 2016)

Photo by Steve Rensberry (c) 2014