Friday, September 22, 2006

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Owner Of Houston Medical Supply Business Indicted, Charged With Medicaid Fraud Totaling Over $2 Million

HOUSTON - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has obtained a Harris County grand jury indictment charging a Houston durable medical equipment provider with first-degree felony theft. The charges stem from his scheme to bill Medicare $1.2 million for motorized wheelchairs, while instead delivering less expensive scooters to clients.

In addition, Christian O. Onwuegbusi, 54, operated a previous scheme to bill Medicaid and Medicare more than $1 million for physical therapy services, some of which were not performed. Both incidents are related to his upcoming trial.

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Christian Onwuegbusi
Christian Onwuegbusi

“This individual profited lucratively from one illegal therapy scheme and apparently decided later to expand into other areas of health care fraud, all as a means to bilk government programs,” said Attorney General Abbott. “I am once again pleased that my office has the opportunity to work with Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal to see that justice is done for these alleged crimes.”

He was arrested on August 30 at his residence by officers of Attorney General Abbott’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the FBI and Office of Inspector General of the Health and Human Services Commission. He remains in custody.

In phase one of his schemes to defraud the government, Onwuegbusi created Texas Memorial Medical Institute Rehabilitation Services (TMMI), ostensibly to provide a range of physical therapy treatments for patients, including those on Medicaid and Medicare. From May 1999 through September 2002 he fraudulently billed the government $1.08 million for treatments never performed, of which he was reimbursed $582,000 from Medicare and $108,107 from Medicaid.

Then in May 2002, Onwuegbusi’s TMMI opened a new durable medical equipment company, having a Medicare provider number listing him as the “director/officer.” From September 2002 until June 2003, he billed Medicare almost $1.2 million, receiving reimbursement of $900,000 of the total. The reimbursements were tied to the delivery of scooters valued at just over $500, instead of the more expensive motorized wheelchairs which he claimed were delivered. These were billed to Medicare for reimbursement of between $5,000 and $7,000.

Onwuegbusi was indicted in the latter case in June 2004, which involved only federal Medicare funds. The allegations against him for billing for nonexistent physical therapy sessions will be used as a “marker” of relevant ongoing conduct in his trial on the wheelchair billing allegations. Harris County Assistant District Attorney Vic Weisner is slated to prosecute Onwuegbusi.

To obtain more information about the Attorney General’s efforts to fight Medicaid fraud, access the agency’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.