In a May 26, 2011 press release, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) reported the conviction of a patient recruiter for a Houston durable medical equipment (DME) company for Medicare fraud. The announcement was made by the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services (HHS) and the FBI.
The recruiter, Marion Beverly Metoyer, was convicted by a Houston federal jury in relation to a power wheelchair fraud scam.
At the conclusion of her four-day trial, Metoyer, of Dayton Texas, was convicted of the following charges: one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, three counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiring to receive illegal kickbacks for referring Medicare beneficiaries, and two counts of receiving illegal kickbacks for referring Medicare beneficiaries.
Metoyer faces serious sentencing, including maximum penalties of 10 years in prison for the health care fraud conspiracy; 10 years in prison for committing health care fraud; five years in prison for conspiring to receive illegal kickbacks for referring Medicare beneficiaries; and five years in prison for receiving an illegal kickback for referring a Medicare beneficiary. A sentencing date has not been set.
Information at the trial showed that Mentoyer acted as a recruiter for Helen Etinfoh, owner and operator of Luant & Odera Inc., a DME firm out of Houston doing business as Tonni Medical Equipment & Supplies.
Metoyer was paid kickbacks in exchange for giving the company beneficiaries in whose names bills could be submitted to Medicare. Etinfoh and co-conspirators submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare, often for medically unnecessary DME, including power wheelchairs, wheelchair accessories and motorized scooters.
Luant made special use of the 2008 hurricane that hit Houston. According to trial evidence, Luant would bill Medicare for power wheelchairs to replace wheelchairs lost during the hurricane. However, some beneficiaries admitted at trial that they didn’t even have a wheelchair before receiving the “replacement”.
Luant would use the “hurricane code” because it eliminated the need for a doctor’s order for the wheelchairs.
At trial, some beneficiaries in whose names claims were submitted to Medicare said recruiters they had never met, including Metoyer, would come to their homes and offer them free power wheelchairs if they would provide their Medicare information. Medicare would then be billed more than $6,000 for each successful submission.
This was not Etinfoh’s first run-in with health care fraud. She was convicted of health care fraud in April 2010 and sentenced to 41 months in prison. Paula Whitfield, a patient recruiter for Luant, had also been convicted by a federal jury in April 2010. She’d received a 21 month prison sentence.
Three other recruiters, Melvin Barnes, Johnnie Lee Andrews and Monica Rene Perry, entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and will be sentenced later.
The guilty jury verdict was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno of the Southern District of Texas; Acting Special Agent-In-Charge Russell D. Robinson 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), Office of Investigations; and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).
This successful outcome adds another notch to the Medicare Strike Force. With operations in nine cities, the Force has indicted 1,000 individuals who together have falsely billed Medicare for more than $2.3 billion.
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