The owner of a small chain of home health care agencies near Houston has been sentenced to decades behind bars for bilking Medicaid and Medicare out of millions of dollars.
U.S. District Judge Sim Lake of the Southern District of Texas this month ordered Godwin Oriakhi, 61, to spend 40 years in federal prison for running a scheme that defrauded the government programs out of $17 million, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The sentencing marks the largest case of provider attendant services fraud in Texas history, authorities noted.
Oriakhi, who owned and operated five agencies in the Houston area, was sentenced along with one of his company’s nurses for the scheme, which occurred between 2009 and 2016. In March, Oriakhi pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to launder the illegal proceeds of his operation, the DOJ said.
Oriakhi and his daughter found patient referrals by making illegal kickback payments to patient recruiters and some of his office employees, according to authorities. Oriakhi and his employees paid Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries by cash, check or money transfers in exchange for using their Medicare and Medicaid numbers to bill the programs for home health care and provider attendant services.
The group also paid physicians kickbacks, which they called “copayments,” for referring and certifying Medicare and Medicaid patients.
In total, Oriakhi his co-conspirators submitted approximately $17,819,456 in fraudulent home health care and PAS claims to Medicare and Medicaid, and received about $16,198,600 on those claims, according to the DOJ.
Three others also have pleaded guilty in the scam. Among them was Charles Esechie, one of the agencies’ primary admissions nurses, and Idia Oriakhi, Godwin Oriakhi’s daughter, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit health care fraud.
Additionally, Jermaine Doleman, a patient recruiter, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit health care fraud and launder money. Doleman was also charged in two other health care fraud cases.
A judge sentenced Esechie on Aug. 17 to five years in prison. Idia Oriakhi and Jermaine Doleman are currently awaiting sentencing.
Written by Tim Regan