The owner and operator of a New Orleans-based medical clinic, as well as her accountant, pleaded guilty this week for their role in a home health care fraud scheme that bilked Medicare of nearly $50 million in erroneous claims.
Paige Okpalobi, 58, of Sidell, La., please guilty Wednesday before a U.S. district judge of the Eastern District of Louisiana to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to falsify records in a federal investigation, according to the Department of Justice.
According to her plea agreement, Okpalobi admitted that doctors employed at her clinic falsely certified that a certain number of their clients—specifically, Medicare beneficiaries—were homebound and in need of home health care services.
Okpalobi further admitted that she and her co-conspirators then used the false certifications to bill Medicare for fraudulent home health care services through home health companies she jointly operated with another co-conspirator.
One of these co-conspirators in the fraud scheme was Christopher White, 48, of Destrehan, La., who managed financial and accounting services at Okpalobi’s companies and other companies.
In his plea agreement, White admitted that he coordinated the payment of patient recruiters who illegally sold Medicare beneficiary information to Okpalobi and her co-conspirators. This information was then used by home health companies operated by Okpalobi and others to bill Medicare for home health services that were not medically necessary and often not delivered at all, according to the DOJ.
Both Okpalobi and White also admitted that they fabricated tax and employment records in response to a federal grand jury subpoena to conceal the illegal kickbacks.
In total, between 2007 and 2014, Okpalobi caused the submission of approximately $49.9 million in claims to Medicare for home health care services that were not medically necessary or not provided.
Thirteen people have been indicted in connection with this particular Medicare scheme, with eight already having pleaded guilty, including two doctors employed at Okpalobi’s medical clinic.
Written by Jason Oliva