9 Houstonians charged in Medicare fraud schemes

HOUSTON - Nine Houstonians have been charged in connection with Medicare fraud schemes.

According to the Department of Justice, more than 107 people across the country have been charged in the schemes that involve a total of $452 million in false claims. The Houstonians charged have been accused of making a total of $16.4 million worth of false billing for home health care and ambulance services.

U.S. attorneys said Nick Patzakis, Valdie Jackson, Valnita Turner and Jarvis Thomas have been charged in connection with a $9.7 million fraud scheme involving home health services.

Investigators said Patzakis is a doctor and medical director of Jackson Home Healthcare Inc. Jackson and Thomas were employees of that business. Turner is a nurse who worked at Houston Compassionate Care Inc.

Okechukuw Ofoegbu, the owner of Cardiomax, has been accused of submitting more than $1.7 million in fraudulent claims for ambulance rides that were not needed or were never provided.

Gwendolyn Climmons-Johnson, owner of Urgent Response Medical Services LLC, has been accused of submitting $2.3 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare for ambulance services.

Olusola Ellito, owner of Double Daniels LLC, has been accused of submitting $1.7 million worth fraudulent claims for ambulance rides that were unnecessary or not provided.

Grace Anassi, owner of Touching Hearts, and Thomas Anassi, a driver for the company, have been accused of submitting $880,000 in fake claims for ambulance services.

"The results we are announcing today are at the heart of an Administration-wide commitment to protecting American taxpayers from health care fraud, which can drive up costs and threaten the strength and integrity of our health care system," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "We are determined to bring to justice those who violate our laws and defraud the Medicare program for personal gain. As today's takedown reflects, our ongoing fight against health care fraud has never been more coordinated and effective."

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force was formed in 2007. Its investigations have led to charges against more than 1,300 people who have been accused of falsely billing Medicare for more than a total of $4 billion.

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