Several Doctors, Others Indicted in $56 Million
Operated companies in New Orleans area that purported
to offer home health services and durable medical equipment to Medicare
26, 2014 - A New Orleans grand jury yesterday indicted seven defendants,
including three doctors for their roles in a $56 million Medicare fraud
scheme that operated home health services and durable medical equipment
services in New Orleans and surrounding communities. Thirteen
defendants have now been charged in this case, three of whom pleaded
guilty to their conduct Wednesday.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of
the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Kenneth A.
Polite Jr. of the Eastern District of Louisiana, Special Agent in Charge
Michael Anderson of the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office and Special Agent
in Charge Mike Fields of the Dallas Regional Office of the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG)
made the announcement.
Paige Okpalobi, 57, of Slidell, Louisiana; Joe Ann
Murthil, 57, of New Orleans; Latausha Dannel, 34, of Laplace, Louisiana;
Dr. Winston Murray, 62, of Hammond, Louisiana; Dr. Divini Luccioni, 53,
of Kenner, Louisiana; Christopher White, 48, of Destrehan, Louisiana;
and Beverly Breaux, 66, of New Orleans, were charged in connection with
their roles in a home health care fraud scheme involving thousands of
Mark Morad, 51, of Slidell; Dr. Barbara Smith, 65,
of Metairie, Louisiana; and Dr. Roy Berkowitz, 68, of Slidell, had been
previously charged for their participation in the scheme, and today’s
indictment added new charges against them.
The second superseding indictment comes one day
after Dr. Alvin Darby, 58, of Slidell; Demetrius Temple, 54, of New
Orleans; and Nicole Oliver, 44, of Napoleonville, Louisiana, each
pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud for their roles
in the scheme. Sentencing for each is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2015 before
U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance of the Eastern District of Louisiana.
The indictment alleges that the defendants operated
a number of companies in and around New Orleans that purported to offer
home health services and durable medical equipment to Medicare
The companies, Interlink Health Care Services Inc.,
Memorial Home Health Inc., Lakeland Health Care Services Inc., Lexmark
Health Care LLC, Med Rite Pharmacy Inc. and Medical Specialists of New
Orleans, billed Medicare claiming that they provided home health
services and durable medical equipment to Medicare beneficiaries, but
the vast majority of these services and equipment were not medically
necessary or not provided.
The indictment further alleges that Morad and
Okpalobi owned and directed operations at these companies. Morad
allegedly paid kickbacks to patient recruiters, including Temple and
Oliver, to provide Medicare beneficiary numbers that were then used to
bill Medicare. To conceal these kickbacks, Morad allegedly laundered
Medicare money through a separate company he owned.
Court documents also allege that Okpalobi
instructed doctors, including Smith, Berkowitz, Murray, Luccioni, and
Darby, to falsely certify that beneficiaries were qualified for home
health services, and to prescribe durable medical equipment that was not
medically needed. These false certifications and prescriptions were
then used to bill Medicare for the unnecessary services and equipment.
Murthil and Dannel were office managers who
allegedly oversaw daily operations at the home health companies. White
allegedly performed accounting services for these companies, and helped
conceal the scheme by fabricating false tax and employee records.
Breaux was a registered nurse who is alleged to have falsely certified
that home health clients were homebound, and that she had provided home
health care services when she had not.
From 2007 through 2014, the companies allegedly
involved in the scheme submitted more than $56 million in claims to
Medicare, the majority of which are allegedly fraudulent. Medicare paid
approximately $50.7 million on those claims.
The charges contained in this indictment are merely
accusations, and the defendants are innocent unless and until proven
The case is being investigated by HHS-OIG and the
FBI and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under
the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S.
Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The case is
being prosecuted by Trial Attorney William G. Kanellis of the Criminal
Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrice Harris
Sullivan of the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare
Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has
charged nearly 2,000 defendants who have collectively billed the
Medicare program for more than $6 billion. In addition, the HHS 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.
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