WASHINGTON – Houston-area residents Oliver Nkuku and Callistus Edozie were sentenced to 120 months in prison and 41 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in a durable medical equipment (DME) Medicare fraud scheme, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today.
Nkuku was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughes to 120 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Nkuku was also ordered to pay $453,112 in restitution jointly and severally with Edozie. Edozie was sentenced today by Judge Hughes to 41 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Edozie was ordered to pay $80,000 in restitution jointly and severally with Nkuku.
According to court documents, Nkuku was the manager of and controlled the day-to-day operations of KO Medical Inc., a Houston-area DME company. Edozie was a delivery driver for KO. Nkuku was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and three counts of health care fraud after a week-long trial in July 2010. Upon conviction, Judge Hughes ordered Nkuku detained prior to sentencing and he has remained in federal detention since his trial. Edozie pleaded guilty prior to trial to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of defrauding a health care benefit program.
KO began billing Medicare for fraudulent DME in 2007, according to court documents. According to evidence introduced at trial, Nkuku submitted over $1.1 million in claims to Medicare on behalf of KO for DME, including power wheelchairs, that was medically unnecessary. The wheelchairs and accessories were billed as catastrophe-related in connection with Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav, even though many of the Medicare beneficiaries, including some who testified at trial, had never owned a power wheelchair during these catastrophes or had owned one that was not damaged during these catastrophes. According to court documents and evidence introduced at trial, Nkuku was previously convicted of fraud, and he failed to admit that previous conviction on documents he submitted to Medicare.
Edozie, as a part of his plea, admitted to delivering medically unnecessary DME, including power wheelchairs, to Medicare beneficiaries whom he knew did not need, and in some cases did not even want, the DME.
The sentences were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno of the Southern District of Texas; Richard C. Powers, Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Houston office; Special Agent-in-Charge Mike Fields of the Dallas Regional Office of the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), Office of Investigations; and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on behalf of the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).
The cases were prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jennifer L. Saulino and Deputy Chief Kathleen McGovern of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The cases were investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and MFCU.
The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. Since their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in seven districts have obtained indictments of more than 825 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.