Feds sentence woman to 97 months in prison for fraudulently billing Medicare for wheelchairs

Sylvia Walter-Eze, 48, of Stevenson Ranch, CA, was also ordered to pay restitution of $1.86 million Medicare and $73,268 to Medi-Cal by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner.  Walter-Eze was found guilty of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, four counts of healthcare fraud, and one count of conspiracy to pay illegal healthcare kickbacks by a federal jury on March 20, 2015.

“The trial evidence also demonstrated that Walter-Eze paid illegal kickbacks to patient recruiters in exchange for patient referrals. The evidence further showed that Walter-Eze paid kickbacks to physicians for fraudulent prescriptions for medically unnecessary, and expensive, power wheelchairs, which prescriptions Walter-Eze then used to support her fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medi-Cal,” the Department of Justice wrote in a release.

Out of the more than $3.5 million in fraudulent claims, Walter-Eze received nearly $2 million in reimbursement.  During fiscal year 2014, 8 people were convicted for defrauding the government in schemes involving wheelchairs (also reffered to as durable medical equipment, a class that includes things like hospital beds), according to the DOJ’s annual report on healthcare fraud.

The case marks another victory for the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a joint effort by Office of Inspector General, DOJ, FBI, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and local law enforcement. Since its creation in 2007, the strike force has charged more than 2,300 defendants who have billed Medicare more than $7 billion.

The DOJ’s annual report claims that the feds recovered $3.3 billion in fiscal year 2014. Several fines against industry bigwigs like Medtronic ($MDT), Boston Scientific’s ($BSX), CareFusion ($CFN) and Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) were detailed as well.

REFERENCE:  Fierce Medical Devices; 01 JUL 2015; Varun Saxena

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