The Allegiant Experts Blog has long been committed to reviewing recent stories about prison sentences handed down to perpetrators of health care fraud. The overall message is that this particular crime doesn’t pay. However, time and time again, we come across news stories that expose medical professionals trying to get paid by taking advantage of our nation’s health insurance programs. The end result: lengthy prison sentences.
Some prison sentences are longer than others. But with the crackdown on health care fraud in the United States, it makes you wonder why anyone would want to commit such a crime. Perhaps, fraudsters are under the impression that they won’t be caught at all. And, then again, maybe perpetrators of health care crime believe that they really have no victims and therefore, won’t receive harsh sentences if caught in the act.
There’s no such thing as a “good” prison sentence.
And, most certainly, 188 months in prison is quite the long stretch. However, the equivalent of a little over 15 and a half years is the amount of time behind bars that will be spent by 54 year-old, Egondu “Kate” Koko of Houston, Texas. Her crime: defrauding Medicare of $20 million.
As reported by the United States Department of Justice yesterday, Koko has been sentenced to 188 months in prison for paying illegal health care kickbacks to physicians and Medicare beneficiaries in order to fraudulently bill for medically unnecessary home health services, and to launder the proceeds. In addition to her prison sentence, Koko has also been ordered to pay $12.9 million in restitution and to forfeit $1,378,552.00.
The former hospital patient recruiter pleaded guilty in October of 2018.
She pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. As part of her plea, she admitted to being a patient recruiter for several Houston-based home health agencies. Among them were Criseven Health Management, Beechwood Home Health, JMM Home Health and Trinity Healthcare Service.
“Koko was also the owner and operator of Circuit Wide Home Health Services, a home health company,” explains the DoJ report, “Koko admitted that she paid illegal kickbacks and bribes to physicians and patients for paperwork necessary for Criseven, Beechwood, JMM, Trinity and Circuit Wide (collectively, “the HHAs”) to bill Medicare. Koko and her co-conspirators submitted and were paid more than $9.5 million but less than $25 million in claims to Medicare for home health services purportedly provided by the HHAs, Koko admitted.”
To hide her illegal activity, Koko also engaged in a money laundering scheme.
As the DoJ report details, she opened a bank account under the identity of Person A, who is a Nigerian national. The proceeds Koko earned from her fraudulent activity in the United States were transferred from her account into the bank account of the Nigerian national. In addition, she purchased a home using the money in the Nigerian national’s account.
Are you an attorney who is currently trying a health care fraud case? If so, please don’t hesitate to contact the Allegiant Experts team to find out how our clinical expertise may help your case. Our experts have been providing expert clinical services for nearly twenty years! Give us a call at 407-217-5831 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.