Former Houston Area DME Owner To Serve 7+ Years, Pay $1.6 M In Restitution For Health Care Fraud

On February 2, 2015, U.S. District Judge Michael Schneider sentenced former Ivy Health Care Supply owner Vivian Yusuf to 7 years and 3 months in jail and ordered her to pay $1.6 million in restitution for her September 17, 2014 guilty plea to conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

In March 2011, Yusuf was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Investigators believe that Yusuf and her co-conspirators billed Medicare for more than $3.4 million for durable medical equipment (DME) that was neither medically necessary nor prescribed by a physician.

The guilty plea stemmed from Yusuf’s January 12, 2012 indictment for conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, and aggravated identity theft for acts committed when she owned and operated Ivy Health Care Supply, a Houston-area durable medical equipment (DME) company based in Stafford, Texas.

According to information presented in court, from June 2007 to May 2009, Yusuf and Aghaegbuna “Ike” Odelugo, James Reese, and others unlawfully submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare of more than $3.4 million and defrauded Medicare of more than $1.6 million by marketing of power wheelchairs and accessories, as well as “ortho kits,” which primarily consisted of a bag of orthotic items, including braces, wraps, and supports, and a heat lamp or heat pad.  As part of the scheme, the defendant and her co-conspirators illegally obtained protected health information, including names, dates of birth, and Medicare numbers from elderly individuals.  Yusuf and her co-conspirators supplied approximately 790 beneficiaries located primarily in Texas and Louisiana with kits and power wheelchairs that the beneficiaries did not want and not prescribed or otherwise authorized by a physician.  In some instances, physicians’ signatures were forged and false claims were submitted to Medicare in the names of Medicare beneficiaries who were deceased.

A fugitive for several years before her arrest June 3, 2014 at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) once listed her on its “Most Wanted List.”

According to OIG, Odelugo and Reese were indicted for their involvement in similar health care fraud schemes.  Odelugo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, and money laundering and was sentenced to 72 months in federal prison.  The loss to Medicare as a result of Odelugo’s scheme was approximately $9.9 million. Reese pleaded guilty to health care fraud and tax evasion and was sentenced to 180 months in federal prison.  The loss to Medicare as a result of Reese’s scheme was approximately $8.6 million.

In the face of these continuing investigations and prosecutions, health care providers should continue to diligently work to comply with the False Claims Act and other federal and state health care fraud laws by tightening their internal controls and other compliance programs. As a key element of these efforts, health care providers should ensure that their human resources and other management carefully monitor employee, contractor and vendor complaints, concerns and other communications for potential signs of compliance concerns, retaliation or other indicators of the need to intervene to correct potential violations or other risks.

For More Information Or Assistance

If you need assistance reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 26 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes advising hospitals, nursing home, home health, rehabilitation and other health care providers and health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies; prevent, conduct and investigate, and respond to peer review and other quality concerns; and to respond to Board of Medicine, Department of Aging & Disability, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, HHS, DOD and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns.  The scribe for the American Bar Association (ABA) Joint Committee on Employee Benefits annual agency meeting with the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights,  Ms. Stamer has worked extensively with health care providers, health plans, health care clearinghouses, their business associates, employers, banks and other financial institutions, and others on risk management and compliance with HIPAA and other information privacy and data security rules, investigating and responding to known or suspected breaches, defending investigations or other actions by plaintiffs, OCR and other federal or state agencies, reporting known or suspected violations, business associate and other contracting, commenting or obtaining other clarification of guidance, training and enforcement, and a host of other related concerns.  Her clients include public and private health care providers, health insurers, health plans, technology and other vendors, and others.  In addition to representing and advising these organizations, she also has conducted training on Privacy & The Pandemic for the Association of State & Territorial Health Plans,  as well as  HIPAA, FACTA, PCI, medical confidentiality, insurance confidentiality and other privacy and data security compliance and risk management for  Los Angeles County Health Department, ISSA, HIMMS, the ABA, SHRM, schools, medical societies, government and private health care and health plan organizations, their business associates, trade associations and others.

A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to obtain information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer, see here.

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