Friday, August 18, 2017
WASHINGTON – The owner and operator of five Houston-area home health agencies was sentenced on Thursday to 480 months in prison for conspiring to defraud Medicare and the State of Texas’ Medicaid-funded Home and Community-Based Service (HCBS) and Primary Home Care (PHC) Programs of more than $17 million and launder the money that he stole from Medicare and Medicaid. The HCBS and PHC Programs provided qualified individuals with in-home attendant and community-based services that are known commonly as “provider attendant services” (PAS). This case marks the largest PAS fraud case charged in Texas history.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Field Office, Special Agent in Charge C.J. Porter of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Dallas Regional Office, Special Agent in Charge D. Richard Goss of IRS Criminal Investigation’s (CI) Houston Field Office and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) made the announcement.
Godwin Oriakhi, 61, of Houston, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake of the Southern District of Texas. In March 2017, Oriakhi pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.
According to admissions made as part of Oriakhi’s plea, he, his co-defendant daughter and other members of his family owned and operated Aabraham Blessings LLC, Baptist Home Care Providers Inc., Community Wide Home Health Inc., Four Seasons Home Healthcare Inc. and Kis Med Concepts Inc., all of which were home health agencies in the Houston area. Oriakhi admitted that he, along with his daughter and other co-conspirators, obtained patients for his home health agencies by paying illegal kickback payments to patient recruiters and his office employees for hundreds of patient referrals. In his plea, Oriakhi also admitted that he, along with his daughter and co-conspirators, paid Medicare and Medicaid patients by cash, check, Western Union and Moneygram for receiving services from his family’s home health agencies in exchange for the ability to use the patients’ Medicare and Medicaid numbers to bill the programs for home healthcare and PAS services. Oriakhi admitted that he, his daughter and their co-conspirators also directly paid some of these patients for recruiting and referring other Medicare and Medicaid patients to his agencies. Additionally, Oriakhi admitted that he, his daughter and other co-conspirators paid physicians illegal kickbacks payments, which Oriakhi and his co-conspirators called “copayments,” for referring and certifying Medicare and Medicaid patients for home health and PAS services.
Oriakhi further admitted that each time he submitted a claim predicated on an illegal kickback payment he knew he was submitting a fraudulent claim to Medicare or Medicaid based on his false representations that the claim and the underlying transaction complied with the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and other state and federal laws. Oriakhi further admitted that he knew that Medicare and Medicaid would not otherwise pay for the fraudulent claims, according to his plea. In addition to the home health care and PAS services fraud scheme, Oriakhi admitted that he and his co-conspirators used the money fraudulently obtained from Medicare and Medicaid to make illegal kickback payments to patient recruiters, employees, physicians and patients to promote the Medicare home health and Medicaid PAS fraud conspiracies, and ensure their successful continuation.
In total, Oriakhi that he and his co-conspirators submitted approximately $17,819,456 in fraudulent home healthcare and PAS claims to Medicare and Medicaid and received approximately $16,198,600 on those claims.
To date, three others have pleaded guilty based on their roles in the fraudulent scheme at Oriakhi’s home healthcare agencies. Oriakhi’s daughter, Idia Oriakhi, and Charles Esechie, a registered nurse who was Baptist’s primary admissions nurse, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with Oriakhi and others to commit health care fraud. Jermaine Doleman, a patient recruiter, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Oriakhi and others to commit health care fraud and launder money. Doleman was also charged in two other healthcare fraud cases. Esechie was also sentenced on August 17, to 60 months in prison. Idia Oriakhi and Jermaine Doleman are awaiting sentencing.
The case was investigated by the IRS-CI, FBI, HHS-OIG and MFCU under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Jonathan T. Baum and Trial Attorneys Aleza S. Remis and William S.W. Chang of the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which is part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operates in nine locations nationwide. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged over 3,500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $12.5 billion.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.