LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Three doctors and a physical therapist are among 18 Southland residents facing federal charges for their alleged involvement in schemes to submit more than $65 million in false billing to Medicare, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced today.
The fraudulent billing from the Los Angeles cases is believed to be the highest amount of false Medicare billing in a single Southland takedown in the history of the federal Medicare Fraud Strike Force, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Four people affiliated with Alpha Ambulance Inc. are charged with submitting more than $49 million in false claims to Medicare between 2008 and 2012, court documents unsealed today in Los Angeles show.
The indictment alleges Alpha’s owners — Alex Kapri, 55, of Hollywood Hills, and Aleksey Muratov, 31, of Burbank — along with employees Wesley Kingsbury, 33, of Bloomington, and Danielle Medina, 35, of Corona, submitted claims for medically unnecessary transportation services and then created fake documentation to support those claims.
Kapri, Muratov, and Kingsbury were arrested early today and Medina surrendered to authorities, prosecutors said.
In three other cases, people associated with four medical equipment companies — Bonfee Medical Supplies, Ibon Inc., Fendih Medical Supplies Inc. and Las Tunas Medical Equipment Inc. — are charged with submitting fraudulent claims to Medicare.
The owners of Bonfee and Ibon — Charles Agbu, 58, and his 25-year-old daughter, Brooke Agbu, both of Carson — were previously indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud related to medically unnecessary power wheelchairs, prosecutors said.
In a superseding indictment returned by a Los Angeles federal grand jury late last month and unsealed today, four additional defendants were added — Dr. Emmanuel Ayodele, 64, of Westlake; Dr. Juan Van Putten, 65, of Ladera Heights, and patient recruiters Alejandro Maciel, 41, and Candelaria Estrada, 37, both of Huntington Park.
The doctors and patient recruiters are charged with conspiring with the Agbus to provide bogus prescriptions to Bonfee and Ibon, which allegedly used those prescriptions to submit more than $12.3 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare for the recruited patients.
Ayodele, Maciel and Estrada were arrested today.
In another case unsealed today, Victoria Onyeabor, 52, and her husband, Godwin Onyeabor, 49, both of Ontario — owners of Fendih Medical Supplies in San Bernardino — were charged with conspiring with Dr. Sri J. “Dr. J” Wijegunaratne, 57, of Anaheim, to commit health care fraud.
According to the indictment, the Onyeabors received prescriptions for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs from Wijegunaratne in return for kickbacks, using those prescriptions to submit more than $1.5 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare.
The Onyeabors, Wijegunaratne, and a fourth defendant, Heidi Morishita, 51, of Valencia, allegedly brought prescriptions to Fendih and conspired in the payment and receipt of illegal kickbacks related to Fendih’s Medicare billing.
Wijegunaratne and Morishita were also arrested today, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Meanwhile, Tigran Aklyan, 36, of Van Nuys was arrested today on charges that he caused the San Gabriel medical supply company he owned, Las Tunas Medical Equipment, to submit more than $900,000 in phony billings to Medicare, primarily for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs, prosecutors said.
In a separate case, Eddie Choi, 44, of Westlake, co-owner of the California Neuro-Rehabilitation physical therapy clinic, was charged with submitting more than $2 million in fraudulent claims Medicare, federal officials said.
Choi allegedly submitted bills for physical therapy when, in fact, the services, to the extent they were rendered at all, were massage and acupuncture that Medicare does not cover.
A second person charged in that case — Won Suk Lee, 54, most recently of Murrieta and currently a fugitive — performed some of the treatments, even though he is not licensed to perform physical therapy, prosecutors allege in court papers.
Choi caused CNR to bill Medicare for Lee’s patients and then paid Lee with about 60 percent of the Medicare reimbursements CNR received, prosecutors allege.
Finally, in a sixth case made public today, Vivian Neri, 58, of Baldwin Park was charged with soliciting home health referrals in exchange for kickbacks.
Neri, who surrendered today, is allegedly associated with at least $40,000 in home health services claims submitted to Medicare.
The defendants charged in the six cases face a variety of criminal offenses, including conspiracy to commit health care fraud, a charge that carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.
In addition to those cases announced today, Bamidele Tola Abdulrahoof, 60, most recently of Palos Verdes, has been arrested by the strike force on charges he submitted fraudulent claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary or not-provided medical products through his company, Warz Medical Supply.
Indicted in August 2009, Abdulrahoof remained a fugitive until last month when he was arrested coming across the United States-Mexico border. Abdulrahoof pleaded not guilty last month.
“Medicare fraud is a national problem that has a very local dimension, impacting patients, health care providers and taxpayers in every part of the nation,” said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. “Here in Southern California, we will continue to work with our federal, state and local partners to crack down on the unscrupulous profiteers who threaten the integrity of our health care industry, as well as the well-being of its patients and practitioners.”
The Southland charges are part of a nationwide takedown by Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in seven cities that led to charges against 91 individuals for their alleged participation in schemes to collectively submit nearly $430 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare.
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