Kusserow’s Corner: Former Los Angeles-Area Pastor Sentenced for Role in $11 Million DME Fraud Scheme

Charles Agbu, a pastor and owner of a Los Angeles-area medical supply company was sentenced to 87 months in prison and was ordered to pay $5,788,725 in restitution to Medicare for his role in a power wheelchair fraud scheme that defrauded Medicare out of more than $11 million. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and money laundering charges based on his role as owner and operator of Bonfee Inc., a fraudulent durable medical equipment (DME) supply company that he operated with members of his family from a nondescript office building. He admitted that he paid patient recruiters and doctors to provide him with fraudulent prescriptions for expensive, highly specialized power wheelchairs and other DME that he and his co-conspirators used in submitting more than $11 million false claims to Medicare. He billed the power wheelchairs to Medicare at a rate of approximately $6,000 per wheelchair even though he paid approximately $900 wholesale per wheelchair. In many cases, the Medicare beneficiaries who the co-conspirators claimed they supplied the power wheelchairs and DME did not have any legitimate medical need for the medical equipment, and in some cases, never received the medical equipment. At the time of this fraud, Agbu was a pastor at Pilgrim Congregational Church in South Central Los Angeles.

Agbu’s co-defendants, Alejandro Maciel and Dr. Emmanuel Ayodele were previously sentenced to serve 41 and 37 months in prison and ordered to pay $5,388,755 and $6,355,949 in restitution to Medicare, respectively. Two other co-defendants, Dr. Juan Van Putten and Candelaria Estrada, have pleaded guilty to Medicare fraud charges and are scheduled for sentencing. Another co-conspirator, Obiageli Agbu was convicted by a jury on nine counts of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud and is awaiting sentencing.

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

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Copyright © 2013 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.