Federal authorities in Texas unsealed indictments against six Houston-area residents, part of ongoing efforts to crack down on false claims for non-existent or unnecessary medical equipment covered by Medicare.
The Lone Star State indictments follow a similar move in California earlier this week. Authorities in the Golden State announced Oct. 21 the arrest of 20 people caught in similar stings by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a joint effort coordinated by the U.S. Justice Dept.’s Criminal Division, with assistance from the Inspector General of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, the FBI and state and local authorities.
Charles “Chucky” Roberts of Houston was arrested earlier this month on charges he collected personal information about Medicare beneficiaries that enabled a Richmond, Texas, company to submit faked claims to Medicare for replacement costs for lost or damaged wheelchairs.
According to the complaint, the owners of KO Medical, Kate and Oliver Nkuku, are accused of unlawfully using a special billing code on a claim for equipment damaged during a natural disaster. The ruse — which sought new wheelchairs fictitiously damaged during Hurricanes Katrina, Ike and Gustave — allowed the company to avoid providing a prescription with the bill because the agency presumed the equipment was originally secured using the proper documentation.
The scheme took in over $930,000 before the Nkukus and two other KO Medical employees were indicted and arrested in July. Roberts, 57, allegedly received $400 each time Medicare paid for a power wheelchair for a beneficiary he supplied to the company, his indictment states.
Charges also were levied this week against the owner and two employees of B.I. Medical Supply LLC in Houston, who are accused of submitting bogus bills totaling $840,000 for orthotic braces touted as arthritis kits. According to the indictments, the $4,000 kits often went undelivered to Medicare beneficiaries, while in one circumstance, a pair of knee braces were delivered to a patient who had only one leg.
Authorities on Thursday also amended charges against two women from Houston for their alleged roles in a separate scheme to collect Medicare funds through the sale of expensive arthritis kits.
All six defendants charged Thursday, along with two dozen other individuals arrested during an initial sweep through southern Texas in July, will be tried in U.S. District Court in Houston.