A former Medicare provider who owned an ambulance company has been found guilty of engaging in organized crime after deceiving dozens of mentally disabled patients and attempting to steal more than $1.3 million through fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid programs, the Texas Attorney General's Office announced Tuesday.
A Harris County judge sentenced the 44-year-old Houston man, Chimaroke Echenwune, to 30 years in prison for the elaborate theft.
Echenwune ran a company called "Diamex EMS" with his wife and 13 EMTs. According to the AG's office, which prosecuted the case and conducted the investigation in Houston, Echenwune often manipulated Medicare and Medicaid by billing mentally handicapped patients for transports to the hospital when they were actually taken to adult day care facilities, which is not covered by Medicare. Some were never even taken anywhere at all, caretakers testified to the jury. And some were billed up to three times the cost of Echenwune's ambulance service.
According to the AG, other testimony indicated that Echenwune instructed subordinates to falsify patient records, and a doctor said his signature appeared to be forged on one form.
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On top of his 30-year prison sentence, Echenwune will pay a $10,000 fine — the cost, we would bet, of a trip to the "hospital" in his ambulance.