A Texas doctor and two clinic operators were found guilty of Medicare fraud after a six-day trial in Texas. The jury found that the defendants conspired to defraud Medicare by submitting false claims in the amount of $17 million.
The medical professional is John P. Ramirez, a 64-year-old MD. His co-defendants are Ann Nwoko Shepherd, 62; and Yvette Nwoko, 30. The Houston-based healthcare providers were convicted of various counts of health care fraud.
The Department of Justice found evidence that between December 2011 and August 2015, Ramirez, Shepherd, and Nwoko conspired to defraud the federal health care program out of millions of dollars. Ann Nwoko Shepherd was the owner of Houston’s Amex Medical Clinic.
Through the clinic, she liaised with home-health agencies, offering for sale a variety of medical orders for Medicare-covered patients, which were signed by Dr. Ramirez. The orders included false information about the patients’ need for certain medical treatments and procedures.
The home-health agencies participated in the scheme by billing Medicare for services that were either not medically necessary, never provided, or provided by unlicensed practitioners, using the orders signed by the unethical physician. As manager of Amex Medical Clinic, Yvette Nwoko later sold falsified documents that enabled various healthcare providers to fraudulently bill Medicare for services that the covered patients did not require.
In total, bills submitted to Medicare in connection with the scheme amounted to nearly $17 million, the DOJ said in a statement. Medicare and Medicaid fraud cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year, not only in Texas, but all over the nation. When fraudsters face a conviction, it acts as a deterrent for other would-be schemers, sending a clear message that the government will no longer tolerate this kind of behavior.
The three defendants are currently awaiting sentencing, which has been scheduled for December.
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