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Van Nuys Man to Plead Guilty in Medicare Fraud

November 04, 2003|Wendy Thermos | Times Staff Writer

A Van Nuys businessman agreed Monday to plead guilty to an elaborate Medicare fraud in which he netted more than $1 million by fabricating reimbursement claims for wheelchairs and other devices that he never delivered to patients or that weren't medically necessary.

Authorities said that Vasu Deo, 43, owner of Vasu Wheelchair Repair, will also plead guilty to paying kickbacks to a physician for signing off on false claims he submitted.

Deo paid health-care workers undisclosed sums to provide him with names of Medicare recipients, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles. Using those as leads, he paid kickbacks of as much as $500 per patient to an undisclosed number of doctors to sign documents called certificates of medical necessity.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Stefanie Isser Goldblatt said Deo billed Medicare $2.7 million from 1998 to 2001 for motorized wheelchairs, wheelchair accessories and hospital beds. Of that amount, $1.15 million was based on either goods that never reached patients or bogus claims of medical need, authorities said.

"By falsely billing for ... unnecessary and undelivered medical equipment, Deo diverted scarce taxpayer funds -- intended to help vulnerable beneficiaries -- for his own profit," said Dara Corrigan, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services investigator who led the investigation. Medicare reimburses companies such as Deo's from $4,000 to $8,000 for each wheelchair and hospital bed, Mrozek said.

The charges -- three counts of health-care fraud and one count of paying kickbacks -- and plea agreement were filed simultaneously Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Deo's first court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 24. He is expected to plead guilty before a magistrate in early December, Goldblatt said. Deo could be sentenced to up to 25 years in federal prison.

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