The FBI and Just Department announced Tuesday the owners, director of nursing and “patient recruiters” of a Texas home-health agency were arrested for conspiring to defraud Medicare, pay illegal kickbacks and money laundering.
“According to the indictment, Ebong Tilong, 51, and Marie Neba, 51, both of Sugar Land, Texas, used the Texas-based, home-health agency that they owned to bill Medicare for home-health services that were not provided or not medically necessary,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said in a statement. “They allegedly orchestrated this scheme by paying kickbacks to a series of individuals.”
The investigation revealed Tilong and Neba paid illegal kickbacks to physicians in exchange for authorizing unneeded home-health services. Monies made from Medicare were used to pay for the fraudulent schemes. The fictious and unnecessary medical services added up to about $13 million.
“Tilong and Neba allegedly paid illegal kickbacks to Daisy Carter, 56, of Wharton, Texas, and Connie Ray Island, 48, of Houston, in exchange for referring Medicare beneficiaries for home-health services,” revealed U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. “Finally, all four defendants allegedly paid illegal kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries, in exchange allowing Tilong and Neba to bill Medicare using their Medicare information for home-health services that were not medically necessary or not provided.”
Charges against Neba, who was the director of nursing, indicate she allegedly falsified medical records to make it appear Medicare beneficiaries qualified for the health services. The criminal activities occurred from around February 2006 until about June 2015.
“Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 2,300 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $7 billion,” observed FBI Special Agent in Charge C.J. Porter of the U.S. Department of Health Human Services-Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) in Dallas. “In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
“An indictment is merely a formal accusation. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” the press statement indicated. “The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and IRS-CI under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Texas. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney William S.W. Chang of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.”