Medicare fraudster gets long, long prison sentence

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The owner and director of nursing of a Houston home health agency was sentenced on Friday to 75 years in prison for her role in a $13 million Medicare fraud scheme.

Marie Neba, 53, of Sugarland, Texas, was sentenced by a U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon of the Southern District of Texas. She was convicted in November 2016 of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, three counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks, one count of payment and receipt of health care kickbacks, one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and one count of making health care false statements.

Court records show that from February 2006 through June 2015, Neba and others conspired to defraud Medicare by submitting more than $10 million in false and fraudulent claims for home health services to Medicare through Fiango Home Healthcare Inc. The company was owned by Neba and her husband, Ebong Tilong, 53, also of Sugarland, Texas.

The trial evidence showed that using the money that Medicare paid for such fraudulent claims, Neba paid illegal kickbacks to patient recruiters for referring Medicare beneficiaries to Fiango for home health services. Neba also paid illegal kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries for allowing Fiango to bill Medicare using beneficiaries’ Medicare information for home health services that were not medically necessary or not provided. Neba also falsified medical records to make it appear as though the Medicare beneficiaries qualified for and received home health services.

There was also evidence that she had attempted to get a co-defendant in the federal courthouse to lie for her.

To date, four others have pleaded guilty based on their roles in the fraudulent scheme at Fiango.  Nirmal Mazumdar, M.D., the former medical director of Fiango, pleaded guilty to a scheme to commit health care fraud for his role at Fiango. Daisy Carter and Connie Ray Island, two patient recruiters for Fiango, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud for their roles at Fiango.

Island was sentenced on Friday to 33 months in prison. Mazumdar and Carter are awaiting sentencing.

After the first week of trial, Tilong pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, three counts of healthcare fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay and receive healthcare kickbacks, three counts of payment and receipt of healthcare kickbacks, and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. He is scheduled to be sentenced on October 13.

The Department of Justice just announced a conviction in a similiar case on Thursday, when a Houston area registered nurse was convicted for her role in a $20 million medicare fraud billing scheme.

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