The former president of a Houston hospital, his son and a co-conspirator were sentenced today to 45 years, 20 years and 12 years in prison, respectively, for their roles in a $158 million Medicare fraud scheme.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Lucy R. Cruz of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Houston Field Office, the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services-Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Dallas Regional Office, Special Agent in Charge Joseph J. Del Favero of the Railroad Retirement Board-Office of Inspector General (RRB-OIG) and Inspector General Patrick E. McFarland of the Office of Personnel Management-Office of Inspector General (OPM-OIG) made the announcement.
“The former President of Houston’s Riverside hospital, his son and their co-conspirators saw mentally ill, elderly and disabled Medicare beneficiaries as commodities to be turned into profit centers – not as vulnerable individuals in need of health care,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “Rather than providing needed medical care to a historically underserved community, the defendants ran a longstanding hospital into the ground through their greed and fraud. According to the evidence presented at trial, the defendants had patients sit around the facility watching movies while they received no treatment. Meanwhile, the defendants billed Medicare more than $158 million for care that was never provided. This brazen fraud cannot and will not be tolerated.”
Earnest Gibson III, 70, the former president of Riverside General Hospital, Earnest Gibson IV, 37, the operator of Devotions Care Solutions, a satellite psychiatric facility of Riverside General Hospital, and Regina Askew, 50, the owner of Safe and Sound group home, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal of the Southern District of Texas. In addition to the significant terms of imprisonment, Earnest Gibson III was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $46,753,180, Earnest Gibson IV was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $7,518,480, and Regina Askew was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $46,255,893.
Following a five-week jury trial, on Oct. 20, 2014, Earnest Gibson III, Earnest Gibson IV and Regina Askew each were convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, as well as related counts of paying or receiving illegal kickbacks. Earnest Gibson III and Earnest Gibson IV also were convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Co-defendant Robert Crane, a patient recruiter, also was convicted of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 9, 2015.
According to evidence presented at trial, from 2005 until June 2012, the defendants and others engaged in a scheme to defraud Medicare by submitting to Medicare, through Riverside and its satellite locations, approximately $158 million in false and fraudulent claims for partial hospitalization program (PHP) services. A PHP is a form of intensive outpatient treatment for severe mental illness.
Specifically, evidence at trial demonstrated that the Medicare beneficiaries for whom the hospital billed Medicare did not qualify for or need PHP services. Moreover, the evidence showed that Medicare beneficiaries rarely saw a psychiatrist and did not receive intensive psychiatric treatment. In fact, some of the beneficiaries were suffering from Alzheimer’s and could not actively participate in the treatment for which Medicare was billed.
Evidence presented at trial also showed that Earnest Gibson III paid kickbacks to patient recruiters and to owners and operators of group care homes, including Regina Askew, in exchange for which those individuals delivered ineligible Medicare beneficiaries to the hospital’s PHPs. Earnest Gibson IV also paid patient recruiters, including Robert Crane and others, to deliver ineligible Medicare beneficiaries to the specific PHP operated by Earnest Gibson IV.
To date, six other individuals either have pleaded guilty based on their involvement in the scheme. Mohammad Khan, an assistant administrator at Riverside, who managed many of the hospital’s PHPs, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay illegal kickbacks, and five counts of paying illegal kickbacks; on May 21, 2015, Mohammad Khan was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake of the Southern District of Texas to 40 years in prison for his role in the scheme. William Bullock, an operator of a Riverside satellite location, as well as Leslie Clark, Robert Ferguson, Waddie McDuffie and Sharonda Holmes, who were involved in paying or receiving kickbacks, also have pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme and await sentencing.
The case was investigated by the FBI, IRS-CI, Texas MFCU, HHS-OIG, RRB-OIG and OPM-OIG. The case 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 of the Southern District of Texas. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chiefs Laura M.K. Cordova and Jennifer L. Saulino and Trial Attorney Ashlee C. McFarlane 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 nearly 2,100 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $6.5 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the 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 Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.