WASHINGTON – A former officer of Fendih Medical Supply Inc. was sentenced to serve 51 months in prison yesterday in Los Angeles for his role in a fraud scheme that resulted in $1.5 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare. In addition, a physician was sentenced to 27 months in prison for his role in the scheme.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. of the Central District of California, Special Agent in Charge Glenn R. Ferry of the Los Angeles Region of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and Assistant Director in Charge Bill L. Lewis of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.
Godwin Onyeabor, 49, of San Bernandino, Calif., was sentenced on Sept. 9, 2013, by U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real in the Central District of California to 51 months in prison. In addition to his prison term, Onyeabor was sentenced to three years of supervised release. Restitution will be determined at a later date. Dr. Sri J. Wijegunaratne, 58, of Anaheim, Calif., was sentenced to 27 months in prison by Judge Real. In addition to his prison term, Wijegunaratne was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $87,846.
On April 24, 2013, a jury in Los Angeles federal court found Wijegunaratne, Onyeabor and Heidi Morishita, 48, guilty of one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks. In addition, Wijegunaratne and Onyeabor were found guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Wijegunaratne was found guilty of seven counts of health care fraud, and Onyeabor was found guilty of eleven counts of health care fraud.
During trial, the evidence showed that Onyeabor, as the former officer of a durable medical equipment (DME) supply company, fraudulently billed more than $1 million to Medicare for DME that was either never provided to its Medicare beneficiaries or was not medically necessary. Wijegunaratne provided Onyeabor and others with medically unnecessary power wheelchair prescriptions, and both Wijegunaratne and Morishita sold power wheelchair prescriptions to Onyeabor and others.
The evidence showed that Onyeabor and others paid Wijegunaratne and Morishita cash kickbacks for fraudulent prescriptions for DME, and Onyeabor and others used these prescriptions to bill Medicare for the power wheelchairs and other DME. Several Medicare beneficiaries testified that they were lured to medical clinics with the promise of free items such as vitamins and juice, only to receive power wheelchairs which they did not need and did not want, and were unsuccessful in their attempts to reject delivery of the power wheelchairs from Onyeabor’s supply company.
As a result of this fraud scheme, Onyeabor, Wijegunaratne and others submitted and caused the submission of approximately $1.5 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and received almost $1 million on those claims.
Morishita’s sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 30, 2013.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and the Los Angeles Region of the HHS-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Benton Curtis, Trial Attorneys Fred Medick and Alexander Porter of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with 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.
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