LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles-area physician whose referrals led to more than $1.7 million in fraudulent Medicare billings was sentenced this afternoon to 24 months in federal prison for his role in a conspiracy to defraud Medicare related to medically unnecessary power wheelchairs and other durable medical equipment.
Charles Okoye, a 52-year-old Carson resident who formerly operated a medical clinic in South Los Angeles, was sentenced by United States District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald, who also ordered the defendant to pay $931,118 in restitution.
Okoye pleaded guilty in August and admitted that he referred Medicare beneficiaries to a Gardena durable medical equipment supply company for power wheelchairs and other durable medical equipment (DME). These beneficiaries had been recruited by employees of Adelco Medical Distributors, Inc. and taken to see Okoye for a single, cursory examination, after which Okoye made the referrals to Adelco.
Adelco’s owner, Adeline Ekwebelem, paid Okoye an illegal kickback for every referral, and then billed Medicare more than $1.7 million for providing the DME, which the beneficiaries did not need or want and often never used. Medicare paid Adelco more than $820,000 on those claims. Ekwebelem was found guilty in September of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, and the payment of illegal kickbacks (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2014/122.html). Judge Fitzgerald is scheduled to sentence Ekwebelem on January 15.
Okoye admitted that he engaged in a similar unlawful arrangement with another DME company, Esteem Medical Supply.
As a result of his guilty plea and conviction, Okoye’s medical license will likely be suspended for at least three years, and he will likely lose his ability to bill Medicare and Medi-Cal for patient services in the future.
The investigation into Okoye, Ekwebelem, and others involved with Adelco’s fraudulent scheme to defraud Medicare was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.