HOUSTON - Two Houston area nurses are set to
appear in federal court on charges they defrauded Medicare
of more than $2.1
million, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick.
The indictment, returned under seal Oct. 9,
was unsealed today upon the arrests of Joseph Nwankwo, 56, Houston, and Stacey
Ajaja, 49, Richmond. They are expected to make their initial appearance at 2
p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy K. Johnson today.
According to the indictment, Nwankwo and
Ajaja co-owned Hefty Healthcare Services Inc. From 2014 through 2016, Hefty allegedly billed Medicare for home health
services that were never provided and not medically necessary. Nwankwo and
Ajaja obtained patient referrals by paying marketers and patients and bribed
physicians to authorize medically unnecessary home health services for Hefty
patients, according to the charges. The indictment also alleges they created
phony medical records to perpetrate the healthcare fraud.
Nwankwo and Ajaja are both charged with one
count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, five counts of health care
fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay and receive health care
Conspiracy to commit health care fraud and
each of the health care fraud charges carry a maximum punishment of 10 years in
federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine, upon conviction. If
convicted of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks, they also
face a maximum possible punishment of five years and a $25,000 fine.
The Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General, Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud
Control Unit and the FBI conducted the investigation. Special Assistant U.S.
Attorney Kathryn Olson is prosecuting the case.