Texas patient recruiter gets prison sentence for role in $20M Medicare fraud scheme

Gavel money handcuffs fraud
A Texas patient recruiter has been sentenced for her role in a $20 million Medicare fraud scheme. (Getty Images/alfexe)

A Houston-based patient recruiter has been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for her role in a $20 million scheme to defraud Medicare. 

Egondu “Kate” Koko, 54, was sentenced to 188 months in prison and ordered to pay $12.9 million in restitution, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced. Koko pleaded guilty in October to her role in the scheme, which involved paying kickbacks to physicians in order to fraudulently bill Medicare for home health services. 

Koko was a patient recruiter for four home health agencies operating in the Houston area, the DOJ said, and also owned an additional home health company, according to the department. Koko admitted to paying kickbacks and bribes to physicians, which allowed her to obtain the paperwork necessary to bill Medicare. 

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Koko and co-conspirators billed Medicare for services that were not provided and were paid between $9.5 million and $25 million in claims, the DOJ said. 

In addition, those involved with the scheme laundered the funds paid out by Medicare, according to the announcement. 

Koko opened an account under the name of a person identified as “Person A,” a Nigerian national, by the DOJ. She transferred the money to that account and used the money to buy a home. 

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The case was investigated by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a joint initiative between the DOJ and the Department of Health and Human Services. Since March 2007, the strike force has charged nearly 4,000 people in relation to $14 billion in Medicare fraud. 

Other recent fraud cases include a $3.3 million settlement from a group of Virginia pain management clinics, which resolved whistleblower allegations that they fraudulently billed government programs for services that were not provided. 

The former CEO of a Florida hospital chain paid $3.5 million to settle false billing allegations in a scheme where he pressured emergency physicians to admit patients who could have been treated in an outpatient setting, the DOJ said.