Eight Southland residents, including two doctors, were charged today for their roles in schemes to submit more than $14 million in false billing to Medicare.
Among those charged are two Orange County doctors and two associates who allegedly billed nearly $5.7 million in false claims to Medicare for durable medical equipment, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Specifically, the defendants billed Medicare for enteral nutrition, a
liquid nutritional supplement. Medicare will only pay for the supplement if a patient has a feeding tube.
Dr. Augustus Ohemeng, 62, of Buena Park, and Dr. George Tarryk, 72, of Seal Beach wrote phony prescriptions for enteral nutrition for patients who did not have feeding tubes, according to the indictment.
Co-defendant George Samuel Laing, 41, of Sylmar, who managed the Long Beach clinic where Tarryk and Ohemeng practiced, allegedly received kickbacks in exchange for referring the prescriptions to Ivy Medical Supply in Anaheim, owned by co-defendant Emmanuel Chidueme, 59, of Mira Loma, prosecutors said.
Ivy then fraudulently billed Medicare for the enteral nutrition, even though it was not medically necessary and was not delivered to patients in the quantities billed to Medicare, federal prosecutors allege.
Ohemeng, Tarryk, Laing and Chidueme were arrested today and are scheduled to make their initial appearances before a U.S. magistrate judge in Los Angeles this afternoon.
"Medicare fraud drains vital resources and harms consumers across the nation," said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. "The problem is national in scope and it calls out for the type of coordinated national response that today's crackdown represents. This office is dedicated to working with all our partners, both locally and nationally, to protect this important public program that serves our elderly and disabled."
In a separate case, two defendants are in custody on charges related to their Gardena-based durable medical equipment company, Latay Medical Services, which allegedly submitted more than $8 million in fraudulent billings to Medicare for power wheelchairs, orthotics and hospital beds that were either not provided or were medically unnecessary, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The indictment charges Latay's owner Bolademi "Demi" Adetola, 46, of Harbor City, and Latay employee Yuri "Toby" Martin Lopez, 46, of Lawndale with obtaining fraudulent prescriptions for medical equipment, creating fake documentation to make it seem as though the equipment had been delivered when it had not, and delivering items less expensive than that listed on Latay's Medicare claims, prosecutors said.
"The charges announced today emphasize disturbing health care fraud trends, including the arrest of physicians, that exploit federal health care meant for those in need," said Steven Martinez, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office.
"The cases charged in Southern California and around the U.S. indicate the staggering amount of fraud adversely affecting the U.S. economy and illustrate the need for the continued focus on protecting federally funded health-care programs."
Two other defendants are scheduled to surrender today on charges related to Greatcare Home Health Inc., a now-defunct Westlake home health agency that received more than $5.4 million from Medicare for skilled nursing and physical therapy services that prosecutors contend were often either never performed or performed by unlicensed people.
Greatcare's owner, Hee "Angela" Jung Mun, pleaded guilty to paying illegal kickbacks to doctors, individuals known as marketers, and to patients themselves, in order to recruit Medicare beneficiaries, officials said.
Three other Greatcare employees have already pleaded guilty to the fraud and are awaiting sentencing by U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson. Yeong "Sophia" Ja Lee, 50, of the Mid-City area is expected to make her initial court appearance later today on charges that she visited and provided services to patients without a license and created false documentation for Greatcare and one of its referring doctors.
Sang "Miss Ahn" Whan Ahn, 60, of Koreatown, is also scheduled to appear on charges that she acted as a marketer, accepting kickbacks in exchange for referring patients to Greatcare, prosecutors said. As a part of the operation, members of the Strike Force in Los Angeles also executed three search warrants today.