Thursday, December 6, 2007

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Houston Man Investigated by Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Receives 15 years in Prison for Theft

HOUSTON – A Houston durable medical equipment provider was sentenced to 15 years in state prison Wednesday for stealing more than $900,000 from the Medicare program. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigated the case, along with the FBI and Office of Inspector General of the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC-OIG). The Harris County District Attorney’s Office handled the prosecution.

Christian Onwuegbusi, 56, owner of Houston-based Texas Memorial Medical Institute Rehabilitation Services (TMMI), was convicted of theft by a government contractor for fraudulently billing Medicare for motorized wheelchairs that were never provided. During sentencing, 177th District Court Judge Devon Anderson also considered evidence indicating that Onwuegbusi also overbilled Medicare and Medicaid for physical therapy services, some of which were never provided. Those services were provided through TMMI Rehabilitation Services, another business Onwuegbusi owned and operated.

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Christian Onwuegbusi
Christian Onwuegbusi

“This defendant organized a complex scheme to defraud government healthcare programs – and the taxpayers,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Thanks to an outstanding joint effort by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, HHSC-OIG, the FBI, and Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal’s office, a scam that harmed Medicare and Medicaid recipients and wasted taxpayer dollars has been shut down.”

According to evidence gathered by investigators, Onwuegbusi billed the government more than $900,000 for motorized wheelchairs and then delivered less expensive power scooters to Medicare recipients. From May 1999 to September 2002, the defendant also billed more than $1 million to Medicaid and Medicare for physical therapy sessions.

In 2006 alone, the costs of the Medicaid program in Texas totaled more than $17 billion. As the state’s chief law enforcement official, Attorney General Abbott has dramatically expanded the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) to save more taxpayer dollars and increase protection for Texas seniors. The Unit has established field offices in Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Lubbock, McAllen, San Antonio and Tyler through authorization and funding from the 77th Texas Legislature. Attorney General Abbott’s MFCU works with federal, state and local agencies to identify and prosecute those who defraud Medicaid.

The MFCU was honored in 2004 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the Inspector General’s State Fraud Award for effectiveness and efficiency during federal fiscal year 2003 in combating fraud, patient abuse and neglect in the Medicaid program.

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