A federal judge has sentenced the pastor of a now defunct Los Angeles church to 15 years in prison after he was convicted for bilking millions from Medicare for unnecessary power wheelchairs.
Christopher Iruke, 61, must also pay $6.7 million in restitution, jointly and severally with his co-conspirators.
In August 2011, a jury convicted Iruke; his wife, Connie Ikpoh; and one of their employees, Aura Marroquin, of conspiracy and health care fraud.
Iruke and Ikpoh, a nurse at two local hospitals, owned four fraudulent durable medical equipment supply companies, Pascon Medical Supply, Horizon Medical Equipment and Supply, Contempo Medical Equipment, and Ladera Medical Equipment.
Pacson operated from the same Los Angeles address as the Arms of Grace Christian Center church where Iruke and Ikpoh served as pastors. The couple employed several parishioners to help with the scheme.
According to evidence presented at trial, Iruke, Ikpoh, Marroquin and their co-conspirators used fraudulent prescriptions and documents that Iruke purchased from a number of illicit sources to bill Medicare for expensive, high-end power wheelchairs and orthotics that were medically unnecessary or never provided. These power wheelchairs cost approximately $900 per wheelchair wholesale, but were billed to Medicare at a rate of approximately $6,000 per wheelchair. [...]
Witnesses who sold fraudulent prescriptions and documents to Iruke testified that they and others paid cash kickbacks to street-level marketers to offer Medicare beneficiaries free power wheelchairs and other DME in exchange for the beneficiaries’ Medicare card numbers and personal information. These witnesses testified that they and their associates used this information to create fraudulent prescriptions and medical documents which they sold to Iruke and the operators of other fraudulent DME supply companies for $1,100 to $1,500 per prescription. [...]
Evidence introduced at trial showed that as a result of this fraud scheme, Iruke, Ikpoh, Marroquin and their co-conspirators submitted more than $14.2 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare, and received approximately $6.7 million in reimbursement payments from Medicare. The evidence at trial showed that Iruke and Ikpoh diverted most of this money from the bank accounts of the supply companies to pay for the fraudulent prescriptions and documents which Iruke purchased to further the scheme, and to cover the leases on their Mercedes vehicles, home remodeling expenses and other personal expenses.
Ikpoh is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 27, 2012.