Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Deckerof the Central District of California, Special Agent in Charge Glenn R. Ferry of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Los Angeles Region, Assistant Director in Charge David Bowdich of the FBI’s Los Angeles Division and Special Agent in Charge Joseph Fendrick of the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse made the announcement.
Sylvia Walter-Eze, 48, of Stevenson Ranch, California, was found guilty by a federal jury on March 20, 2015, of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, four counts of health care fraud, and one count of conspiracy to pay illegal health care kickbacks. In addition to imposing the term of imprisonment, U.S District Judge R. Gary Klausner ordered Walter-Eze to pay restitution in the amounts of $1,866,260 to Medicare and $73,268 to Medi-Cal.
The evidence presented at trial showed that Walter-Eze, the former owner of Ezcor, a durable medical equipment (DME) supply company located in Valencia, California, fraudulently billed more than $3.5 million to Medicare and Medi-Cal for DME that was not medically necessary. The trial evidence also demonstrated that Walter-Eze paid illegal kickbacks to patient recruiters in exchange for patient referrals. The evidence further showed that Walter-Eze paid kickbacks to physicians for fraudulent prescriptions for medically unnecessary, and expensive, power wheelchairs, which prescriptions Walter-Eze then used to support her fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medi-Cal. The evidence showed that, between 2007 and 2012, Walter-Eze submitted $3,521,786 in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medi-Cal, and that she received $1,939,529 in reimbursement for those claims.
The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG’s Los Angeles Regional Office and the California Department of Justice, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Blanca Quintero and Alexander F. 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 over 2,300 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for over $7 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, go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.