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L.A. jury finds three guilty in $1.5-million Medicare fraud scheme

April 26, 2013|By Chad Terhune
  • Federal officials in Los Angeles and across the country are trying to crack down on Medicare fraud related to wheelchairs and other medical equipment.
Federal officials in Los Angeles and across the country are trying to crack… (Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles…)

A federal jury in Los Angeles found an Anaheim physician and two others guilty this week for their roles in a $1.5-million Medicare fraud scheme involving power wheelchairs.

At trial, federal prosecutors said that Godwin Onyeabor, 49, an officer at Fendih Medical Supply Inc. in San Bernardino, paid kickbacks to physician Sri J. Wijegunaratne, 58, and another healthcare professional, Heidi Morishita, 48, for fraudulent prescriptions for durable medical equipment.

Officials said that as a result of this scheme, which ran from 2007 to 2012, those prescriptions were used to bill Medicare $1.5 million for false and fraudulent claims. Medicare paid nearly $1 million on these claims.

Several Medicare patients testified at trial that they were lured to medical clinics with the promise of free items such as vitamins and juice, only to get power wheelchairs they didn't need.

Onyeabor, Wijegunaratne and Morishita face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count they were found guilty on, prosecutors said.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the Los Angeles regional office for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general.

The Obama administration has tried to crack down on fraud and abuse in Medicare in hopes of recovering some of the estimated $60 billion lost annually in the federal program. The government's enforcement efforts have taken on added importance at a time of rising entitlement spending and mounting federal debt. 

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