The Medicare Fraud Strike Force scored another big win when it charged 20 defendants, most from the Los Angeles area, in seven cases, for allegedly taking part in Medicare fraud schemes. The total bill in fraudulent claims: more than $26 million.
The announcement was made by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in an October 21 2009 press release.
The target for this latest Medicare Fraud Strike Force assault against fraud was fraudulent durable medical equipment (DME) providers.
"Today’s indictments and arrests are important achievements in our ongoing fight against Medicare fraud, but there is more that we can, and will, do," said Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer. "Our Medicare Fraud Strike Force will continue to be vigilant in rooting out criminals who masquerade as health care providers in order to steal from American taxpayers. Every dollar stolen from the Medicare program is one dollar too many."
The cases announced today involve DME company owners and marketers who engaged in a number of schemes to defraud Medicare. The equipment involved included power wheelchairs, orthotics and hospital beds.
Michael Martinez, 30, of Long Beach, Calif., along with six other defendants was charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and for making false statements to the government.
In an attempt to conceal his ownership interest in four fraudulent DME companies, Martinez paid some of the co-defendants to pose as owners of the companies.
The fraudulent companies allegedly filed for $11.2 million in fraudulent medical Medicare claims for chairs and orthotic devices which weren’t necessary. Martinez will pay dearly if convicted since the total if he’s convicted on all charges would be a statutory penalty of 75 years in federal prison. The others face maximum sentences of 15 years.
In addition to Martinez and his co-conspirators, several other California DME owners were caught in the Medicare Strike Force dragnet:
- Christopher Iruke, 57, of Los Angeles, the owner of Pascon Medical Supply, and employee Darawn Vasquez, 25, of Inglewood, Calif., allegedly used a common scam whereby they acquired fraudulent prescriptions and documents from individuals who recruited Medicare beneficiaries or were associated with fraudulent medical clinics. Iruke, Vasquez and Iruke’s wife, Connie Ikpoh, 47, also of Los Angeles; as well as Jummal Joy Ibrahim, 54, of Las Vegas; and Asia Fowler, 38, of Pacoima, Calif.; who were the alleged owners of Horizon Medical Equipment and Supply Inc., Contempo Medical Equipment Inc., and Ladera Medical Equipment Inc., are said to have taken the fraudulent prescriptions and documents Iruke and Vasquez acquired and submitted approximately $12.1 million in false claims to Medicare. A sixth defendant, Aura Marroquin, 28, of Los Angeles, was also indicted for participating in the scheme. If convicted, the six defendants face maximum possible sentences ranging from 50 years to 180 years in federal prison.
- A trial has been scheduled for November 24 Maria Nela Moreno, 56, of Parlier, Calif. and a codefendant received indictments for allegedly conspiring to submit approximately $828,835 in fraudulent claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs through a DME company in Canoga Park, Calif.
- Anait Garanfilyan, 47, of Los Angeles, was taken into custody on October 15 after charged with multiple counts related to illegal kickbacks for Medicare patient referrals to two medical clinics in Los Angeles between February 2005 and May 2006.
- Mariya Bagdasaryan, 54, and Edgar Srapyan, 26, both of Glendale, Calif., face charges of conspiring to commit health care fraud from October 2007 to December 2008. Bagdasaryan operated a fraudulent DME company called Goldberg Medical Supply. He allegedly submitted approximately $779,028 in false claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs and wheelchair accessories.
- Adejare Ademefun, 55, of Inglewood, conspired with others to claim more than $850,000 in false billings to Medicare for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs. Ademefun faces one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and five counts of health care fraud. Ademefun faces a maximum possible sentence of 60 years in prison if convicted on all charges. Sylvester Ijewere, 49, of Arleta, Calif., faces a criminal complaint of one count of health care fraud. Ijewere is connected to a DME company called Maydads that was allegedly used to submit about $500,000 in false claims to Medicare.
The defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty at a trial.
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