Friday, February 21, 2014

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Two Houston-area Men Indicted for Health Care Fraud in State and Federal Case

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas issued the following news release on Feb. 20, 2014:

Houston Physician Arrested in Health Care Fraud Conspiracy

HOUSTON – Dr.  Enyibuaku Rita Uzoaga, 41, and Charles Harris, 53, have been indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

The seven-count indictment was returned Feb. 12, 2014, and unsealed this morning as Uzoaga surrendered to federal authorities. She is expected to make an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge George C. Hanks Jr. at 10 a.m. today.

Harris, aka Celestine Nwajfor and Okechi Nwajiofor, is a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI at 713-693-5000.

The indictment alleges that from approximately 2006 through 2010, Uzoaga, Harris and others falsely billed Medicare and Medicaid for numerous unnecessary vestibular diagnostic tests. Some patients were allegedly tested more than 1,000 times. According to the indictment, the testing was either not performed, not medically necessary and/or not performed by licensed individuals.

Harris had allegedly operated Cevine Health Care and Rehabilitation Center in the Houston area and performed the tests, according to the charges.

Vestibular diagnostic testing is used to diagnose a person for vertigo or dizziness. Upon diagnosis, patients usually undergo physical therapy, take medication or undergo surgery as treatment.

As a result of this allegedly unlawful scheme, Medicare and Medicaid were billed approximately $653,970 in submitted, fraudulent vestibular diagnostic claims, and paid approximately $389,285 on those claims. From 2006 to 2010, vestibular testing comprised approximately 25 percent of Uzoaga’s income from Medicare and Medicaid.

If convicted, both face up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 maximum fine on the conspiracy charge as well as the substantive counts of health care fraud.

The charges are the result of the investigative efforts of the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office. Special Assistant United States Attorney (SAUSA) Suzanne Bradley and AUSA Kebharu Smith are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.

A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.