Rolling Along

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Medicare fraud involving motorized wheelchairs is big business. The crime is commonly committed by unscrupulous doctors and medical supply companies that are out to make a few extra bucks. Net News Publisher reports that a former officer of a San Bernandino Durable Medical Equipment (DME) company and an Ahaheim doctor colluded to scam Medicare beneficiaries by billing the benefits program for power wheelchairs and other medical supplies that were medically unnecessary or never provided.

The story details that the 58-year-old doctor and a 48-year-old co-conspirator sold wheelchair prescriptions to the medical supply company officer and others. The 49-year-old medical supply company officer then fraudulently billed approximately $1.5 million to Medicare and received $1 million from those claims. The DME officer paid the physician and the co-conspirator kickbacks for the unneeded prescriptions.

Court records show several of the Medicare beneficiaries were attracted to various medical clinics by promises of free items including juice and vitamins. (It is amazing what ”free” items victims will go for.) Once at the clinic, the beneficiaries received unnecessary power wheelchairs, reportedly worth $6,000 a piece. Some victims also had difficulty with rejecting the delivery of the wheelchairs from the medical equipment company.

A jury found the DME company officer, the physician and the co-conspirator guilty of one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks. The medical equipment supply officer was found guilty of seven counts of health care fraud and was sentenced to 51 months in jail, three years of supervised release and restitution to be determined at a future date. The physician was found guilty of 11 counts of health care fraud and was sentenced to 27 months in prison, three years of supervised release and restitution of $87,846. The co-conspirator is scheduled to be sentenced.

Power wheelchairs are meant to be used by people who have limited mobility. (The Medicare beneficiary victims were obviously mobile enough without wheelchairs to make it to the medical clinic for free juice and vitamins.) Fortunately, this scam was halted and prevented from rolling along so that those with physical disabilities, who truly deserve the wheelchair benefit, actually get them.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on the article titled, ”Medical Supply Company Officer and Physician Sentenced for $1.5 M Medicare Fraud,” published on Net News Publisher on September 12, 2013.

A former officer of Fendih Medical Supply Inc. was sentenced to serve 51 months in prison this week in Los Angeles for his role in a fraud scheme that resulted in $1.5 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare. In addition, a physician was sentenced to 27 months in prison for his role in the scheme.

Godwin Onyeabor, 49, of San Bernandino, Calif., was sentenced on Sept. 9, 2013, by U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real in the Central District of California to 51 months in prison. In addition to his prison term, Onyeabor was sentenced to three years of supervised release. Restitution will be determined at a later date. Dr. Sri J. Wijegunaratne, 58, of Anaheim, Calif., was sentenced to 27 months in prison by Judge Real. In addition to his prison term, Wijegunaratne was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $87,846.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.