Charges Filed in $97 Million Medicare Fraud Case

   (USDOJ) - July 31/2012 - A superseding indictment was unsealed on July 26 charging two owners of a Houston mental health care company, Spectrum Care P.A., some of its employees and the owners of Houston group care homes for their alleged participation in a $97 million Medicare fraud scheme, according to a joint announcement by the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the FBI.
    Mansour Sanjar, 79, Cyrus Sajadi, 64, and Chandra Nunn, 34, were originally charged in December 2011, and are expected to make their initial appearances on the superseding indictment in the coming days. The indictment was originally returned on July 24.
    Adam Main, 31, Shokoufeh Hakimi, 65, Sharonda Holmes, 38, and Shawn Manney, 50, all from the Houston area, were arrested and were expected to make their initial appearances in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston on July 26 or 27.
   The superseding indictment charges Sanjar, Sajadi, Main, Terry Wade Moore, 51, Hakimi and Nunn each with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud; Sanjar, Sajadi, Main and Moore are charged with various counts of health care fraud; Sanjar, Sajadi, Hakimi, Nunn, Holmes and Manney each are charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay health care kickbacks; and Sanjar, Sajadi, Hakimi, Nunn, Holmes and Manney are charged with various counts of payment and receipt of healthcare kickbacks. The superseding indictment also seeks forfeiture.
    According to the indictment, Sanjar and Sajadi orchestrated and executed a scheme to defraud Medicare beginning in 2006 and continuing until their arrest in December 2011. Sanjar and Sajadi owned Spectrum, which purportedly provided partial hospitalization program (PHP) services. A PHP is a form of intensive outpatient treatment for severe mental illness. The Medicare beneficiaries for whom Spectrum billed Medicare for PHP services did not qualify for or need PHP services. Sanjar, Sajadi, Main and Moore signed admission documents and progress notes certifying that patients qualified for PHP services, when in fact, the patients did not qualify for or need PHP services. Sanjar and Sajadi also billed Medicare for PHP services when the beneficiaries were actually watching movies, coloring and playing games – activities that are not covered by Medicare.
    Sanjar, Sajadi and Hakimi paid kickbacks to Nunn, Holmes, Manney and other group care home operators and patient recruiters in exchange for delivering ineligible Medicare beneficiaries to Spectrum, according to the indictment. In some cases, the patients received a portion of those kickbacks. The indictment alleges that Spectrum billed Medicare for approximately $97 million in services that were not medically necessary and, in some cases, not provided.
   The charges were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas; Special Agent in Charge Stephen L. Morris of the FBI’s Houston Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields of the Dallas Regional Office of HHS’s Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU); Joseph J. Del Favero, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the Railroad Retirement Board, Office of Inspector General (RRB-OIG); and Scott Rezendes, Special Agent in Charge of Field Operations of the Office of Personnel Management, Office of Inspector General (OPM-OIG).
   An indictment is merely a formal accusation. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
    The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Laura M.K. Cordova and Allan J. Medina and Deputy Chief Sam S. Sheldon of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section with assistance from Trial Attorneys Jennifer Ambuehl and Aixa Maldonado-Quinones of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section. The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG, MFCU, RRB-OIG and OPM-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.
    Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,330 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4 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.
   Source: www.stopfraud.gov/

Health Experts Denounce Flawed House Farm Bill

   Washington, D.C. – (EWG) - 7/27/2012 0- More than 60 leading chefs, authors, food and agriculture policy and nutrition experts, business leaders and environment and health organizations have sent an open letter to Capitol Hill objecting that the House agriculture committee’s proposed farm bill would “steer the next five years of national food and farm policy in the wrong direction.”
   The notable signatories urged lawmakers “to vote a resounding ‘no’ should the legislation come to a House floor vote (before the August recess), unless the bill is extensively rewritten through the amendment process.”
   Signers include Chefs Mario Batali and Ann Cooper, Food Inc. film director Robert Kenner, authors Michael Pollan and Laurie David, New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle, pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp and medical expert Dr. Andrew Weil.
   “The House bill will leave millions of people without enough food to eat, help fewer farmers and contribute to the loss of millions of acres of wetlands and grasslands,” said Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group. “Meanwhile the cost of crop insurance is poised to set another record---at the expense of the American taxpayer.”
   You can read the full letter and list of signers here.
   Kari Hamerschlag of Environmental Working Group and authors Dan Imhoff and Anna Lappé initiated the group letter to express frustration that the House Agriculture Committee slashes $16 billion in nutrition assistance and $6.1 billion from conservation programs while spending $36 billion on new farm subsidies and failing to include meaningful reforms to the costly federal crop insurance program.
   Hamerschlag, Imhoff, and Lappé organized a similar letter denouncing the Senate version of the farm bill last month.
   "We are speaking up for the millions of Americans who share the belief that the farm bill should use taxpayer dollars wisely and fairly,” Lappé said. “The 2012 legislation should promote healthy food, reward farmers who are good stewards of the land, and provide the much-needed resources for struggling families to put food on the table."
   The letter sent to the House acknowledges that the committee retained some of the Senate bill’s modest but positive elements, including programs that scale up local production and distribution of healthy foods and bolster marketing and research for fruit, nut and vegetable farmers.
   “On the whole, however, this is a huge step backward in almost every other regard,” the letter says. “We are deeply concerned that the bill would continue to give away tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to the largest commodity crop growers, insurance companies, and agribusinesses while drastically underfunding programs to protect natural resources, invest in beginning and disadvantaged farmers, revitalize local food economies, and promote health and food security.”
   The letter strongly criticizes the House panel’s failure to retain the Senate-approved conservation compliance amendment. Moreover, its version contains dangerous anti-environmental provisions that would roll back fundamental regulatory and constitutional protections, gut common-sense rules that protect water quality and wildlife from agricultural pesticides, exempt GMO crops from meaningful environmental review and federal oversight, and prevent states from setting their own standards for farm and food production.
   "Rather than making real reforms to alleviate hunger, strengthen stewardship, and boost rural economies, the House farm bill would continue sending billions to agribusinesses and weaken regulations around pesticides and genetically modified crops,” Imhoff said. “Americans deserve better."
   Signers of the letter hope that floor action on the bill would give House lawmakers the opportunity to dramatically improve the legislation. They are calling on lawmakers to pass amendments that eliminate harmful extraneous provisions, support local, healthy and organic food, provide full funding for nutrition assistance programs and include fiscally responsible reforms to crop insurance and commodity programs.

Economist Says U.S. Growth Slow But On Track

   NEW YORK- (BUSINESS WIRE) - 7/21-2012 - Moody’s Analytics, an independent provider of economic forecasting, recently released Chief Economist Mark Zandi’s latest U.S. monthly economic outlook. According to “U.S. Macro Outlook: Policymakers Must Get It Right,” Zandi expects the U.S. economy to gain traction going into 2014 and to return to full employment, meaning a jobless rate lower than 6 percent, by late 2015. However, such optimism depends heavily on the decisions of policymakers in the U.S. and abroad.
   “The U.S. economy is growing, but uncomfortably slowly. Real GDP is expanding at an annual rate of only 2 percent and recent payroll job gains have averaged 75,000 per month. At this pace, unemployment will remain stuck above 8 percent for some time,” Zandi said.
    Action will be needed after the November election to address the fiscal cliff to avoid a new recession in the U.S. The tax increases and spending cuts slated for next year constitute more than 4.5 percent of GDP, which an economy growing at 2 percent cannot withstand. Zandi said that while the current consensus view holds that Washington is likely to take the path of least resistance, extending the Bush-era tax cuts and canceling most of the scheduled spending cuts, doing so will delay progress toward making the government’s finances sustainable. By early 2013, the next president and Congress may have to behave differently than their predecessors to avoid this.
    The U.S. outlook also depends on the actions of policymakers globally. U.S. businesses are reluctant to hire because of the threat of a potential break‐up of the euro area and a hard landing in the emerging world.
    “Still, despite the difficulties, the U.S. economy can indeed rebound,” Zandi said.

Gene mutations linked to ALS, cell dysfunction

    (NIH) - 7/18/2012 - Researchers have linked newly discovered gene mutations to some cases of the progressive fatal neurological disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Shedding light on how ALS destroys the cells and leads to paralysis, the researchers found that mutations in this gene affect the structure and growth of nerve cells.
   ALS attacks motor neurons, the nerve cells responsible for controlling muscles. People with ALS experience such early symptoms as limb weakness or swallowing difficulties. In most people, the disease leads to death three to five years after symptoms develop, usually as a result of respiratory failure.
   Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, collaborated with international ALS researchers to search for gene mutations in two large families with an inherited form of ALS. The researchers used a technique to decode only the protein-encoding portions of DNA, known as the exome, allowing an efficient yet thorough search of the DNA regions most likely to contain disease-causing mutations. This deep sequencing of the exome led to the identification of several different mutations in the gene for profilin (PFN1) which were present only in the family members that developed ALS. Further investigations of 272 other familial ALS cases across the world showed that profilin mutations were also found in a small subset (about 1 to 2 percent) of the familial ALS cases studied.
   The protein profilin is a key part of the creation and remodeling of a nerve cell's scaffolding or cytoskeleton. In fly models, disrupting profilin stunts the growth of axons — the long cell projections used to relay signals from one neuron to the next or from motor neurons to muscle cells. After identifying the PFN1 mutations in ALS patients, the researchers demonstrated that these mutations inhibited axon growth in laboratory-grown motor neurons as well. They also found that mutant profilin accumulated in clumps in neural cells, as has been seen for other abnormal proteins associated with ALS, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Neural cells with PFN1 mutations also contained clumps of a protein known as TDP-43. Clumps of abnormal TDP-43 are found in most cases of ALS, further linking profilin to known ALS mechanisms.
   John Landers, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, described how studying ALS in large families is challenging. "ALS is a late-onset, rapidly progressive disease. Unless you’ve been following a family for decades, it is hard to get DNA samples to study," Dr. Landers said. "We were very fortunate to obtain the DNA samples with the help of our research collaborators and the affected families."
   Over a dozen genes have been linked to ALS, and these findings support existing studies which suggest that cell cytoskeleton disruptions play a major role in ALS and other motor neuron diseases. Motor neurons are large cells with long axons that connect to muscle, and cytoskeleton proteins are especially important in the transport of proteins along the axon to the remote parts of the neuron. This information could be useful in developing strategies for detection and treatment of ALS.
   "In all of the causative genes that we identify, we look for common pathways," Dr. Landers said. "Every time we are able to identify a new gene, we have another piece of the puzzle. Each one of these genes helps us to understand what's going on. The more of these we can find, the more we're going to know about what's going wrong in ALS."
   Familial ALS accounts for 10 percent of all ALS cases, but the majority of ALS cases are sporadic, where the cause is unknown. Even though this new mutation is linked to familial ALS, it reveals information about the mechanisms underlying motor neuron degeneration in general, and also may have broader implications for understanding sporadic ALS.
   "This discovery is highly significant and opens a new avenue of research," said Amelie Gubitz, Ph.D., program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), which funded the research. "There is growing evidence that ALS may be caused by a variety of cellular defects, and that it is a not a disorder with a single origin. Whether and where these disease pathways converge is an active area of research with important implications for therapy development."
  Motor neurons that have mutant versions of the profilin protein grow shorter, less complex axons (right) than motor neurons with normal profilin (left). From Wu et al., Nature, July 15, 2012.
   This research was published online by Nature. Scientists from research institutions in several countries contributed to the paper. In the United States, researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Emory University of Medicine, Atlanta, and Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N. C., contributed to the study. In Italy, researchers from the University of Milan, the Institute of Hospitalization, Care and Scientific Research and the University of Pisa contributed to the study. In Israel, researchers from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center contributed to the study. Additionally, researchers from the University Medical Centre Utrecht in the Netherlands, University of Guelph in Canada, and the Salpetriere Hospital in Paris contributed to the study.
   The work was supported by grants from the NINDS, funded in part through the Recovery Act (NS065847, NS050557, NS070342). It was also supported by the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Agency of Research for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (AriSLA), SMA Europe, ALS Therapy Alliance, Project ALS, Partners in ALS Research, the Angel Fund, the Pierre L. de Bourgknecht ALS Research Foundation, the Al-Athel ALS Research Foundation, the ALS Family Charitable Foundation and a donation from Francesco Caleffi.
   For more information about ALS, visit: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/ALS.

Executives, Borrowers Indicted in Massive Fraud

Bank Collapse Called Largest in Virginia Since 2008
   NORFOLK, Va. – 7/14/2012 - Top executives and favored borrowers have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Norfolk, Va., accused of masking non-performing assets at the Bank of the Commonwealth for their own personal benefit and to the detriment of the bank. This long-running scheme allegedly contributed to the failure of the bank in 2011, which the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) estimates will cost the FDIC deposit-insurance fund $268 million.
   Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; John Boles, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office; Rick A. Raven, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI)’s Washington, D.C., Field Office; Christy L. Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP); and Jon T. Rymer, Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC-OIG), made the announcement.
   “The Bank of the Commonwealth’s high risk lending practices resulted in soaring losses after the 2008 financial crisis. Led by former CEO and Board Chairman Edward Woodard, these bank insiders and their favored borrowers allegedly conspired to hide the rapidly deteriorating financial condition of the bank through fraud,” MacBride said. “For more than 30 years, this community put their trust – and their money – in the Bank of the Commonwealth. These charges portray a bank leadership that betrayed that trust for their own profit at the detriment to their own bank, its shareholders and the community it served.”
    The 25-count indictment was returned on July 11 and made public July 12 after the following individuals from Norfolk were taken into custody:
  • Edward J. Woodard , 69, who served as the bank’s chief executive officer and chairman of the board for more than three decades until he was forced to step down as chairman in April 2010 and forced to retire from the bank in December 2010. Woodard is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, false entry in a bank record, multiple counts of unlawful participation in a loan, multiple counts of false statement to a financial institution and multiple counts of misapplication of bank funds.
  • Simon Hounslow , 47, who served as an executive vice president and chief lending officer until the bank closed in September 2011. Hounslow is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, misapplication of bank funds, false statement to a financial institution and multiple counts of false entry in a bank record.
  • Stephen G. Fields , 48, who served as an executive vice president and commercial loan officer until he was terminated in December 2010. Fields is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, multiple counts of false entry in a bank record, multiple counts of false statement to a financial institution and multiple counts of misapplication of bank funds.
  • Troy Brandon Woodard , 35, the son of Edward Woodard, and who was employed by a wholly-owned subsidiary of the bank as a vice president and mortgage loan specialist until he was terminated in January 2011. Brandon Woodard is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and multiple counts of unlawful participation in a loan.
  • Thomas E. Arney , 56, who leased office space on the third floor of the bank’s headquarters and owned and operated a residential development company, several restaurants, rental properties and a car restoration business. Arney is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, unlawful participation in a loan, misapplication of bank funds and multiple counts of false statement to a financial institution.
  • Dwight A. Etheridge , 47, who owned and operated a residential and commercial development company, as well as an employment staffing company. Etheridge is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, misapplication of bank funds and multiple counts of false statement to a financial institution.
   Each charge contained in the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, if convicted. Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.   According to the indictment, in 2006, leaders at the Bank of the Commonwealth began an aggressive expansion beyond its traditional focus on Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Va. to include branches in northeastern North Carolina and the Outer Banks, N.C. By December 2009, the bank’s assets reached approximately $1.3 billion, built largely through brokered deposits, a financial tool that allows investors to pool their money and receive higher rates of return. Because of the high-volatility of these deposits, an institution must remain well-capitalized to accept and renew brokered deposits.
   The indictment alleges that many of the bank’s loans were funded and administered without regard to industry standards or the bank’s own internal controls, and by 2008 the volume of the bank’s troubled loans and foreclosed real estate soared. From 2008 through 2011, bank insiders – Edward Woodard, Hounslow and Fields – allegedly masked the bank’s true financial condition out of fear that the bank’s declining health would negatively impact investor and customer confidence and affect the bank’s ability to accept and renew brokered deposits.
   To fraudulently hide the bank’s troubled assets, bank insiders allegedly overdrew demand deposit accounts to make loan payments, used funds from related entities – at times without authorization from the borrower – to make loan payments, used change-in-terms agreements to make loans appear current, and extended new loans or additional principal on existing loans to cover payment shortfalls.
   In addition, the indictment alleges that bank insiders also provided preferential financing to troubled borrowers – including Arney, Etheridge and others – to purchase bank-owned properties. These troubled borrowers were already having difficulty making payments on their existing loans; however, the financing allowed the bank to convert a non-earning asset into an earning asset, and the troubled borrowers obtained cash at closing to make payments on their other loans at the bank or for their own personal purposes.
   The indictment also alleges that troubled borrowers purchased or attempted to purchase property owned by bank insiders and Brandon Woodard. These real estate loans were fraudulently funded by the bank.
According to the indictment, in November 2008, the Bank of the Commonwealth sent to the Federal Reserve an application requesting approximately $28 million from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Based on its regulator's concerns about the health of the bank, the Federal Reserve later requested that the bank withdraw its TARP application, which the bank did.
   From 2008 up to its closing in 2011, the bank lost nearly $115 million. The indictment alleges that the bank’s failure will cost the federal government through the deposit insurance fund in excess of $260 million. The forfeiture notice in the indictment attributes at least $71 million as illegal proceeds of the fraud.
Others charged as part of this ongoing investigation include the following:
  • Business partners Eric H. Menden, 53, of Chesapeake, Va., and George P. Hranowskyj, 47, of Chesapeake, pleaded guilty to engaging in a $41 million bank fraud scheme that contributed to the failure of the Bank of the Commonwealth. They also pleaded guilty to a separate fraud involving a six-year historic tax credit scheme that cost state and federal governments over $12 million and investors more than $8 million.
  • Menden faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for each count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements and conspiracy to commit bank fraud when he is sentenced on Sept. 26, 2012. Hranowskyj faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and a maximum of five years in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud when he is sentenced on Oct. 15, 2012.
  • Natallia Green , 29, of Norfolk, and formerly employed by Menden and Hranowskyj, pleaded guilty to making a false statement on a loan application to the Bank of the Commonwealth. In January 2012, Green was sentenced to five years probation.
  • Maria Pukhova , 30, of Virginia Beach, and formerly employed by Menden and Hranowskyj, has been charged with making a false statement on a loan application to the Bank of the Commonwealth.
  • Jeremy C. Churchill , 35, of Norfolk, and a former vice president and commercial loan officer at the bank, pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to cause the bank to suffer millions of dollars in losses from loans meant to conceal financial problems at the bank and with one of its customers. Convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison when he is sentenced on Aug. 24, 2012.
  • Recardo S. Lewis , 61, of Norfolk, and a former employee with by Tivest Development & Construction LLC, pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to defraud the Bank of the Commonwealth by submitting fraudulent draws on a multi-million construction project in Virginia Beach. Convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, Lewis faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 19, 2012.
    The investigation is being conducted by the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office, IRS-CI, SIGTARP and the FDIC-OIG. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melissa E. O’Boyle, Katherine Lee Martin and Uzo Asonye of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States. It has been coordinated by the Virginia Financial and Securities Fraud Task Force, an investigative arm of the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) , an interagency national task force.
   Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on https://pcl.uscourts.gov.
   Source: Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force

NIH Study: Deaf Brain Process Touch Differently

Lacking input, the primary auditory cortex 'feels' touch
   (NIH) - 7/11/2012 - People who are born deaf process the sense of touch differently than people who are born with normal hearing, according to research funding by the National Institutes of Health. The finding reveals how the early loss of a sense — in this case hearing — affects brain development. It adds to a growing list of discoveries that confirm the impact of experiences and outside influences in molding the developing brain. The study is published in the July 11 online issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.
   The researchers, Christina M. Karns, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research associate in the Brain Development Lab at the University of Oregon, Eugene, and her colleagues, show that deaf people use the auditory cortex to process touch stimuli and visual stimuli to a much greater degree than occurs in hearing people. The finding suggests that since the developing auditory cortex of profoundly deaf people is not exposed to sound stimuli, it adapts and takes on additional sensory processing tasks.
   "This research shows how the brain is capable of rewiring in dramatic ways," said James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIDCD. "This will be of great interest to other researchers who are studying multisensory processing in the brain."
   Previous research, including studies performed by the lab director, Helen Neville Ph.D., has shown that people who are born deaf are better at processing peripheral vision and motion. Deaf people may process vision using many different brain regions, especially auditory areas, including the primary auditory cortex. However, no one has tackled whether vision and touch together are processed differently in deaf people, primarily because in experimental settings, it is more difficult to produce the kind of precise tactile stimuli needed to answer this question.
    Karns and her colleagues developed a unique apparatus that could be worn like headphones while subjects were in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. Flexible tubing, connected to a compressor in another room, delivered soundless puffs of air above the right eyebrow and to the cheek below the right eye. Visual stimuli — brief pulses of light — were delivered through fiber optic cables mounted directly below the air-puff nozzle. Functional MRI was used to measure reactions to the stimuli in Heschl's gyrus, the site of the primary auditory cortex in the human brain’s temporal lobe as well as other brain areas.
   The researchers took advantage of an already known perceptual illusion in hearing people known as the auditory induced double flash, in which a single flash of light paired with two or more brief auditory events is perceived as multiple flashes of light. In their experiment, the researchers used a double puff of air as a tactile stimulus to replace the auditory stimulus, but kept the single flash of light. Subjects were also exposed to tactile stimuli and light stimuli separately and time-periods without stimuli to establish a baseline for brain activity.
   Hearing people exposed to two puffs of air and one flash of light claimed only to see a single flash. However, when exposed to the same mix of stimuli, the subjects who were deaf saw two flashes. Looking at the brain scans of those who saw the double flash, the scientists observed much greater activity in Heschl's gyrus, although not all deaf brains responded to the same degree. The deaf individuals with the highest levels of activity in the primary auditory cortex in response to touch also had the strongest response to the illusion.
   "We designed this study because we thought that touch and vision might have stronger interactions in the auditory cortices of deaf people," Karns said. "As it turns out, the primary auditory cortex in people who are profoundly deaf focuses on touch, even more than vision, in our experiment."
   There are several ways the finding may help deaf people. For example, if touch and vision interact more in the deaf, touch could be used to help deaf students learn math or reading. The finding also has the potential to help clinicians improve the quality of hearing after cochlear implants, especially among congenitally deaf children who are implanted after the ages of 3 or 4. These children, who have lacked auditory input since birth, may struggle with comprehension and speech because their auditory cortex has taken on the processing of other senses, such as touch and vision. These changes may make it more challenging for the auditory cortex to recover auditory processing function after cochlear implantation. Being able to measure how much the auditory cortex has been taken over by other sensory processing could offer doctors insights into the kinds of intervention programs that would help the brain retrain and devote more capacity to auditory processing.

Health Care Company Co-owner Gets 180 Months

    (RPC) - 7/4/2012 - The former co-owner of a Houston-area home health care company was sentenced in Houston to 108 months in prison for his participation in a $5.2 million Medicare fraud scheme, announced the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
   Princewill Njoku, a former co-owner and administrator at Family Healthcare Group, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas in the Southern District of Texas to 108 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Njoku was ordered to pay $5.1 million in restitution jointly and severally with his co-defendants. In January 2011, Njoku pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay illegal kickbacks to patient recruiters and sixteen counts of paying such illegal kickbacks.
   According to court documents and other evidence presented to the court, Family Healthcare Group, a Houston home health care company, purported to provide skilled nursing to Medicare beneficiaries.
   According to the evidence, Princewill Njoku paid co-conspirators to recruit Medicare beneficiaries for the purpose of Family Healthcare Group filing claims with Medicare for skilled nursing that was medically unnecessary or not provided. Njoku and his co-conspirators then falsified documents to support the fraudulent payments from Medicare.
    Njoku is the ninth defendant sentenced in connection with this scheme, including Njoku’s co-owner, Clifford Ubani, who also received a 108 month sentence earlier this month. One remaining defendant awaits sentencing.
    The sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas; Special Agent-In-Charge Stephen L. Morris of the FBI’s Houston Field Office; Special Agent-in-Charge Mike Fields of the Dallas Regional Office of HHS’s Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).
    This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Charles D. Reed and Deputy Chief Sam S. Sheldon of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG, Texas OAG-MFCU and the Federal Railroad Retirement Board-OIG, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.
    Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,330 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $4.4 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
   To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov .
   Source: Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force

The Arms Debate

Not All American's Have the Right to Bear Arms

Photo by Steve Rensberry (c) 2018