California pastor pleads guilty to $11 million in medicare fraud
December 18, 2012
Chargles Agbu, 58, admitted to owning and operating a Carson medical equipment supply company that billed Medicare for expensive devices, such as power wheelchairs, using fraudulent prescriptions, according to the Department of Justice. Agbu pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health fraud and one count of money laundering.
Agbu, a pastor at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Los Angeles, faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
The pastor admitted to paying recruiters to convince Medicare patients to provide him their Medicare information in exchange for specialized wheelchairs and other expensive equipment they did not need. Agbu also conspired with clinics and doctors, whom he paid between $100 and $700 for writing fraudulent prescriptions and providing documentation supporting patients’ needs for power wheelchairs. Agbu’s company Bonfee Inc. billed Medicare for the medical equipment.
Agbu and his co-conspirators submitted false claims to Medicare totaling more than $11 million. They received nearly $6 million on those claims.
The DOJ is prosecuting four co-defendants in Abu’s case, including the pastor’s daughter, Obiageli Agbu. The co-defendants are scheduled for trial in February 2013. Agbu is scheduled to appear for sentencing in May.
Dr. Juan Tomas Van Putte, whom Agbu paid to write fake prescriptions pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to commit Medicare fraud. Van Putten faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His sentencing is scheduled for March.
The office of the U.S. Health and Human Services Inspector General, which participated in the investigation, released a report last month alleging that a California health insurance firm, PacifiCare, over billed Medicare $424 million. PacifiCare, too, charged Medicare for health care services their patients did not need.