Wednesday, January 25, 2006
A one-year federal prison sentence was handed down Friday against Lorine Hawthorne, 34, of Houston, including required restitution totaling over $300,000, for her role in a wheelchair scheme to illegally bill the Medicaid program. She will also serve three years supervised release upon completing her sentence. In addition, an accomplice, Pamela Robinson Russell, 37, of Galena Park was sentenced on Jan. 13 to five years probation and $108,000 in restitution. She will spend six months in home confinement upon completing probation.
The two were charged with receiving kickbacks between $200 and $800 on each referral from Anefiok Jimmy Eking, owner of Medical Equipment and Supplies and MESCORP, durable medical equipment companies specializing in making wheelchairs available to the needy under the Medicaid program. Eking, now a fugitive, and his companies have been charged with illegally billing Medicaid almost $10 million over four years for motorized wheelchairs and related equipment that were either unnecessary or could have been made available at much lower cost to those in need.
A physician, Dr. Anant Mauskar, was charged with falsely certifying these transactions as medically necessary and profited illegally from kickbacks as well. He was convicted following a federal jury trial in November and faces sentencing on Feb. 24.
In an unrelated Medicaid fraud case, two women pleaded guilty last week in a Houston federal court for conspiring to bill Medicaid for physical therapy sessions for a total of $4.2 million, while obtaining Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements totaling $1.4 million.
Brenda Franklin Harris, 59, and Rosiland Michelle Jones, 39, jointly owned the fraudulent Health Universal Medical Services in Baytown. With trial expected to begin on Jan. 23, each of the two pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. The two falsely billed for physical therapy evaluations, billed for therapy sessions never conducted or conducted sessions without physician oversight.
All cases were cooperatively investigated by the Attorney General’s MFCU, the FBI and the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The cases were prosecuted by the Houston Division of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas.
The cases reflect Attorney General Abbott’s ongoing commitment to crack down on those who defraud Medicaid across the state. To obtain more information about the Attorney General’s efforts to fight Medicaid fraud, access the agency’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.