2 Houston area nurses sent to prison after collecting more than $1.4M in illegal kickback scheme


HOUSTON – Authorities say two healthcare officials from the Greater Houston area have been sentenced to federal prison after participating in an illegal kickback scheme that brought them more than $1.4M.

Officials from the Department of Justice say a Houston man, 59-year-old Joseph Nwankwo, and a Richmond woman, 51-year-old Stacey Ajaja, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and paying/receiving illegal health care kickbacks.

Nwankwo was ordered to serve 36 months in federal prison, and Ajaja received a 14-month term of imprisonment. Both Nwankwo and Ajaja must also serve three years of supervised release following their prison terms.

The judge ordered Nwankwo to pay $1,218,615.13 in restitution to Medicare, while Ajaja was ordered to pay $238,164.69.

Investigators say Nwankwo and Ajaja co-owned Hefty Healthcare Services Inc. and admitted that from 2014 through 2016, they both had obtained patient referrals by paying marketers and patients.

Nwankwo also reportedly admitted to bribing a physician to authorize medically unnecessary home health services for Hefty patients.

Both parties were permitted to remain on bond and asked to voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

About the Author:

Moriah Ballard joined the KPRC 2 digital team in the fall of 2021. Prior to becoming a digital content producer in Southeast Texas and a Houstonian, Moriah was an award-winning radio host in her hometown of Lorain, Ohio and previously worked as a producer/content creator in Cleveland. Her faith, family, and community are her top passions.