Federal officials have charged 20 people with fraudulent Medicare billing in seven cases that total $26 million in unneeded or undelivered medical equipment, the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles said Wednesday.
The charges came out of a joint investigation by the FBI, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and California attorney general's office.
* A 30-year-old Long Beach man was arrested for allegedly recruiting relatives and members of the Brook Street Gang, based in Santa Ana, to act as owners for fake medical supply companies, which billed Medicare $11.2 million for unneeded wheelchairs and equipment. Five co-defendants are in custody and another is a fugitive.
FBI official Keith Bolcar said the case illustrated the "disturbing practice" of recruiting people to help commit "large-scale fraud against the government."
* The owners and employees of four medical suppliers, who live in Inglewood, Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley and Las Vegas, were arrested for allegedly billing Medicare more than $12 million for equipment that either was given to people who did not need it, never supplied or billed on behalf of dead patients. Five of the suspects live in the L.A. area and one is in Las Vegas.
* A 56-year-old woman who lives near Fresno was arrested for allegedly participating in a conspiracy to bill Medicare more than $800,000 for unneeded power wheelchairs.
* A 47-year-old Los Angeles resident was arrested after being indicted on charges surrounding illegal payments for referring Medicare patients to two L.A. medical clinics.
* Two Glendale residents were accused of billing Medicare more than $1.4 million for power wheelchairs and accessories. One defendant arrested allegedly paid illegal kickback fees in return for referrals of Medicare patients to a fake medical supply company.
* A 55-year-old Inglewood resident was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to bill Medicare $850,000 for unneeded power wheelchairs.
* Two people, one from Arleta and the other a resident of Hayward, near San Francisco, were named in a criminal complaint accusing them of healthcare fraud; both were associated with a medical supplier alleged to have illegally billed Medicare nearly $500,000.