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Medicare fraud found in solicitations for wheelchairs

By Carol Forsloff     Mar 25, 2010 in Crime
Los Angeles - Recall those newspaper ads and television announcements about companies who can help Grandma get a wheelchair? Well, not all of that solicitation was legitimate as the sentencing of a huckster in Los Angeles revealed today.
The Department of Justice announced in its press release today the federal court issurance of an order on March 25 which sentenced Leonard Nwafor, 44, to serve nine years in prison for Medicare fraud.
Evidence at trial stated that through his company, Pacific City Group, Nwafor submitted $1,109,438 in fraudulent claims and received $526,243 in Medicare payments. Most of these were for power wheelchairs that Nwafor maintained beneficiaries could bill to Medicare for $7000 each.
Evidence presented at trial revealed 170 beneficiaries were represented, none of whom were able to use the wheelchairs. One of them was blind and testified he could not see to operate the wheelchair. Elderly and disabled beneficiaries maintained they had been approached by marketers to give their Medicare numbers and other personal information in exchange for free power wheelchairs. One of these people testified the "marketers" used aggressive techniques to solicit business. An example was a threat to terminate Medicare benefits by someone who maintained he worked for Medicare and represented Nwafor.
Nwafor had also fraudulently used the names of a number of Los Angeles-area physicians to support his claims. A psychiatrist testified he had never written a prescription for a wheelchair as part of his practice, while other physicians declared the prescriptions using their names were phony, observing the handwriting on the prescriptions not to be theirs.
Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) activities relate to the Obama administration's Presidential Memorandum Regarding Finding and Recapturing Improper Payments. This month the Administration announced an expansion of "Payment Recapture Audits." This process is used to determine improper payments using high tech tools to examine payment records, fictitious payments, services not rendered and overpayments. This is an attempt to reduce medical costs by uncovering abuses.
This comes at a time when the Obama administration is accused of not spending enough time and effort on determining ways to reduce costs through evaluation of how moneys are spent. The case today demonstrates there are efforts to find abuse, and the new administration has established new guidelines for it.
Medicare provides specific conditions for determining need for wheelchairs that can be found here.
More about Medicare fraud, Obama administration, Wheelchairs
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