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Fraud: US court jails Nigerian, two others

A District Court in Southern Texas, United States has sentenced a Nigerian, Obisike Nwankwo, and two others, Dr. Howard Grant and John Lachman, to a total of 88 months for their roles in a multi-million dollar Durable Medical Equipment fraud scheme.

The convictions, which were contained in a statement issued on Wednesday by the US Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, said US District Court Judge Nancy Grant sentenced Nwankwo and Lachman to 41 months, 21 months and 26 months respectively in prison as well as three years each of supervised release.

In addition, the court ordered Grant, Nwankwo and Lachman to pay the sums of $121,742, $29,052 and $1.14m respectively in restitution jointly and severally with co-defendants. Lachman was ordered to pay $1.14m in restitution jointly and severally with co-defendants.

Evidence at trial established that Onward Medical Supply, a Houston-area DME company, billed US Medicare for fraudulent DME, including power wheelchairs and orthotic devices, between 2003 and late 2009. In addition to the three co-conspirators, a fourth accused person was convicted at trial while seven others, including Onward’s owner, Doris Vinitski, pleaded guilty to their participation in various parts of the company’s Medicare fraud scheme.

Vinitski worked with Medicare biller and co-defendant, John Okonkwo, and others in late 2008 and early 2009 to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare identifying Grant as the prescribing physician for the DME. The claims were submitted in several groups in November 2008 and evidence showed that Grant learnt about the fraudulent prescriptions prior to Onward’s submission of the claims to Medicare.

Evidence also showed that, upon learning of the prescriptions, Grant asked Vinitski for $10,000 in exchange for allowing the fraud scheme to continue. Okonkwo agreed to plead guilty for his participation in the scheme.

Following the verdict, the judge ordered Grant to surrender his medical licence and his Drug Enforcement Administration number and to stop all billing to Medicare and Medicaid. Evidence at trial established that Nwankwo acted as a delivery driver for Onward and several other DME companies and that he delivered equipment such as power wheelchairs and orthotics for Onward to beneficiaries who did not want or need the equipment.

One beneficiary testified at trial that when Nwankwo tried to deliver a power wheelchair to her, she told him to get off her front step or she would call the police. Lachman managed the fraud scheme in the early years until the end of 2006. During that time, he created fraudulent patient files, managed payments of kickbacks to recruiters and delivery drivers, and operated the day-to-day business of Onward.

Grant and Nwankwo were both convicted by a federal jury after a two-week trial in May and June 2010. While Grant was convicted of two counts of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, Nwankwo was found guilty on one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.


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Posted by on Jan 5 2011. Filed under Headlines. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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