New Orleans clinic owner, accountant plead guilty to $50 million Medicare scheme

A New Orleans medical clinic owner and her accountant pleaded guilty last week for their roles in an eight-year, $50 million Medicare fraud scheme, according to a statement by the Department of Justice. The guilty pleas add to the steady stream of home health fraud that has plagued government health programs for the last several years.

Medical clinic owner Paige Okpalobi paid kickbacks to physicians to falsely certify Medicare beneficiaries for home health services. Okpalobi used these certifications to provide unnecessary services to beneficiaries through home healthcare companies that she operated with another co-conspirator. The two falsely billed Medicare for these services between 2007 and 2014.

Christopher White, who served as an accountant for Okpalobi's companies, admitted to coordinating payments to patient recruiters in exchange for beneficiary information. After receiving a federal grand jury subpoena, White also helped Okpalobi fabricate tax and employment documents in order to conceal physician kickbacks. Including the pleas from White and Okpalobi, eight of the 13 individuals involved in the scheme pleaded guilty, including two of the physicians who received kickbacks.

Louisiana has seen a string of high-priced fraud cases over the last four months, FierceHealthPayer: AntiFraud previously reported. Last week, authorities arrested 20 New Orleans residents for their alleged participation in a fraud scheme that submitted $30 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare for unnecessary home health services, and a separate Baton Rouge home health company was charged with scamming $15 million from Medicaid between 2008 through 2013. In December, another Louisiana home health owner pleaded guilty to a fraud scheme that took $56 million from Medicare.

For more:
- here's the DOJ statement