Former pastor sentenced to 3 years in prison for $14.2 million Medicare fraud scheme

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ReligionNewsBlog.com — A former Los Angeles church pastor, who owned and operated several fraudulent durable medical equipment supply companies with her husband, was sentenced today to serve 3 years in prison for her role in a $14.2 million Medicare fraud scheme, the Department of Justice, FBI and Department of Health and Human Services announced.

The US Department of Justice (USDOJ) says Connie Ikpoh, 49, also was sentenced today by United States District Judge Terry J. Hatter for the Central District of California to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $6.7 million in restitution jointly and severally with her co-conspirators.

Last month a federal judge sentenced her husband, Christopher Iruke, 61, to 15 years in prison.

One of the medical supply companies, Pacson, operated from the same Los Angeles address as the Arms of Grace Christian Center church where they served as pastors. The couple employed several parishioners to help with the scheme.

In a press release the USDOJ explains

According to the trial evidence, Ikpoh, Iruke, Marroquin and their co-conspirators used fraudulent prescriptions and documents that Ikpoh and 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. Each power wheelchairs cost approximately $900 per wholesale, but were billed to Medicare at a rate of approximately $6,000 per wheelchair. Witness testimony established that Ikpoh and Iruke hid the money they used to pay for these fraudulent prescriptions by writing checks to a company called “Direct Supply,” a fictitious company that Iruke created in the name of an Arms of Grace church member. Iruke cashed the checks that he and Ikpoh wrote to Direct Supply and used the money to purchase the fraudulent prescriptions.


Witnesses who sold the fraudulent prescriptions and documents that Ikpoh, Iruke and their co-conspirators used to defraud Medicare 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.

After Iruke purchased the prescriptions, the trial evidence showed that Ikpoh used the prescriptions at Horizon to bill Medicare primarily for power wheelchairs. In fact, the trial evidence showed that approximately 85 percent of Horizon’s business was power wheelchairs, and that Ikpoh submitted more than $3.2 million in claims to Medicare. Medicare paid Ikpoh more than $1.6 million on these claims. Witnesses who worked at Horizon testified that if Medicare refused to pay Horizon for a power wheelchair, Ikpoh required the witnesses to take back the power wheelchairs from the Medicare beneficiaries.

The trial evidence showed that Ikpoh was also involved with operating Contempo and Ladera. Ikpoh represented herself to state inspectors as Contempo’s manager and appeared on Ladera’s corporate filings with the state. Moreover, witness testimony established that Ikpoh ran the companies when Iruke visited Nigeria and that she and one of her co-defendants, Darawn Vasquez, who was also a church member at Arms of Grace, withdrew money from the Contempo bank account to pay for fraudulent prescriptions.

Iruke and Ikpoh spent their fraudulent income on furthering the scheme, as well as on luxury vehicles, home remodeling, and other personal expenses.

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This post was last updated: Feb. 28, 2012