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Dentist Gets 18 Months for Medicare Fraud

Dentist Gets 18 Months for Medicare Fraud


On November 15, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma announced that Robin R Lockwood was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for health care fraud.  Lockwood is a dentist in Oklahoma City.  On top of her prison sentence, Lockwood is also ordered to pay $375,672.27 in restitution.


Lockwood is licensed to practice in the state of Oklahoma, and she was employed by Ocean Dental at 1610 Southwest 74th Avenue.  The dentists employed at Ocean Dental provided care to children who qualified for Medicaid.  The Medicaid program provides care to people with low income through federal and state funding.  Medicaid is provided in the name of “SoonerCare” in Oklahoma by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA).  


Normally, Ocean Dental would submit claims to OHCA in order to receive reimbursement for the dentists’ services.  If Lockwood provided the services personally, Ocean Dental would provide her with a percentage of the funds reimbursed by OHCA.  


According to court documents, Lockward attempted to defraud Medicaid from July 1, 2007 to December 31, 2010 by submitting claims for dental services that were never provided.  In most cases, she would provide information on treatment notes that she made dental restorations to certain teeth when no such treatments to the teeth were performed.  In other cases, Lockwood recorded that she used certain treatments on teeth when she actually used treatments that were not reimbursed through Medicaid.  


Lockwood admitted that she used the fraudulent funds for personal purchases.  She pled guilty on July 11, 2012 and was sentenced today.  


The investigation was led by the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit under the State of Oklahoma’s Attorney General’s Office.  


Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Owner of Health Care Clinics Fraudulently Billed $3M

Owner of Health Care Clinics Fraudulently Billed $3M


On November 15, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas announced that Ovsanna Agopian pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit health care fraud.  Vagharshak Smbatyan, Ovsanna’s husband, was charged in the same case and pled guilty to making false statements to a government agency.  


Agopian and Smbatyan each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.  Restitution is also possible, but prosecutors have not clarified if they will ask for restitution.  Agopian and Smbatyan are both on bail, and they live in Houston, Texas and Grenada Hills, California.  


Court documents indicate that Agopian operated a business called Euless Healthcare Corporation (EHC) that is located on West Bedford Euless Road in Hurst, Texas.  She also operated Medic Healthcare Incorporated (Medic) on Bonhomme Road in Houston.  EHC was in business from March 2010 to May 2011, and Medic conducted business from October 2009 to May 2011.  


During her plea hearing, Agopian admitted that she conspired with co-defendants to submit false billing to Medicare for diagnostic testing.  The co-defendants were able to falsely claim that the testing was performed by EHC or Medic, when no such tests were performed in the first place.  


The co-defendants are Tolulope Labeodan, Godwin Umotong, Leslie Omagbemi, Munda Massaquoi, and Comfort Gates.  


The investigation was part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force and the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT).  The joint initiative was formed in 2009 by the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent fraud and prosecute those who commit health care fraud.  


The investigation was led by the HHS-Office of Inspector General, FBI, and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit under the Office of the Texas Attorney General.  


Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation
 

Scam Targeting Women on Dating Websites

Scam Targeting Women on Dating Websites

 

Women who have been trying to find someone special online already have plenty to watch for, but a new FBI warning now says they should also keep an eye out for blackmailers.  A new extortion scam has begun to target people who are using some of the web's most popular dating websites, and according to the FBI, most of the victims so far have been women over the age of 40.

The FBI says that dozens of people have already fallen for the scam, and more complaints are coming in regularly.  The scam starts when contact is initiated between the woman looking on the matchmaking website and the scammer. 

They begin an online conversation, which may start innocently enough.  However, soon the conversation will take a turn for the sexual once the scammer gains the trust of the victim.  If the woman doesn't initiate the sexual part of the conversation, the scammer will make an attempt to steer the conversation toward sexual topics.  Then, the scammer goes for more information.  They usually attempt to obtain not only photographs (naked or otherwise compromising ones if possible), but also the real name and home phone number for the woman about to be scammed.

At this point, it's very likely that the victim thinks she's about to end up getting a date.  What she gets instead is a link.  That link will take her to a page that shows her photographs (including any intimate or personal photographs that she had given to the scammer), her full real name, her phone number, and text indicating that she is a “cheater.”

The extortion begins after the victim has seen the website link.  In order to have the page taken down, the victim is told, they need to pay $99 to the scammer.  However, in situations where the victims have paid the money, they were told to use difficult to trace services like Western Union—and when they paid, the page stayed up.

The FBI has so far been unable to track down who is creating these extortion scams, but the extensive use of Western Union and MoneyGram services is a pattern that has also been observed with scammers using the “419” or “Nigerian prince” scam.  Because these services are often difficult to trace, the FBI advises that people not use these services to send money to any person that you do not know personally.

This isn't the first time that online scams have targeted dating site users.  In fact, some of these scams can be much worse for their victims than the $99 cheater site scam.  In some cases, online scammers have set up fake dating profiles that allowed them to con people out of thousands of dollars for plane tickets, jewelry, clothing, and more.

According to the FBI, the best way to avoid dating scams online is to be careful about who you're talking to and who you're meeting.  Meet in a public place, and keep in mind that anything you share with somebody online can be shared with anyone else with an internet connection.

Source: fbi.gov

MoneyGram International Inc Forfeits $100M for Fraud

MoneyGram International Inc Forfeits $100M for Fraud


On November 9, 2012, the Department of Justice announced that MoneyGram International Inc agreed to forfeit $100 million after it was accused of wire fraud and failing to maintain an anti-money laundering program.  The company is headquartered in Dallas and provides international money services.  


The Justice Department states that MoneyGram engaged in “mass marketing and consumer fraud phishing schemes.”  Because of the company’s failure to maintain the anti-money laundering program required by the Bank Secrecy Act, they have agreed to forfeit the money and the Justice Department will begin to return the funds to victims through the Victim Asset Recovery Program.  


MoneyGram participated in the scheme from 2004 to 2009 that mostly targeted elderly and other vulnerable consumers.  The scammers posed as relatives of the victims and asked for money.  The scammers falsely promised expensive items and discounted items after the funds were sent through the MoneyGram’s system.  


MoneyGram received thousands of complaints, but they still failed to fire agents that were responsible for the scams.  There were a total of 19,614 complaint reports by 2008.  Because of the company’s failure to maintain its Anti-Money Laundering Program, customers faced fraud totaling about $100 million.  


In April of 2007, the company’s fraud department asked MoneyGram executives to terminate and punish 32 Canadian agents for their fraud.  The sales department disagreed, and the 32 agents continued to receive complaints about fraud.  


Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer stated: “MoneyGram knowingly turned a blind eye to scam artists and money launderers who used the company to perpetuate fraudulent schemes targeting the elderly and other vulnerable victims.  In addition to forfeiting $100 million, which will be used to compensate victims, MoneyGram must for the next five years retain a corporate monitor who will report regularly to the Justice Department.”


Source: U.S. Department of Justice

Gold Coin Dealer Committed $4 Million Fraud Scheme

Gold Coin Dealer Committed $4 Million Fraud Scheme


At the end of October, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon announced that Lawrence H Heim was sentenced to 51 months in prison for defrauding a total of 48 victims out of over $4 million with a gold investment scheme.  


Heim was sentenced by Honorable Marco A. Hernandez, and Judge Hernandez ordered Heim to pay $4,057,003.87 in restitution as well.  


Lawrence Heim was the president of a gold and silver business in Portland Oregon called U.S. Gold & Silver Investments Inc (USGSI) before he was arrested by authorities.  He hosted several forms of media to discuss gold and silver prices as well.  He hosted a radio program in the Portland area, and he also operated a website (called www.noirs.com/invest) where he provided a so-called “calculation” for gold prices.  


During the scheme, Heim told USGSI customers that he would sell them gold or silver if they mailed or wired investment funds to the company.  Many of the victims were elderly people who wanted to invest in gold and silver with their retirement savings.  


Heim started to fall behind on his coin purchases in 2009 while the value of gold and silver was increasing largely.  It is during this time that he began to operate a Ponzi scheme and use funds from new investors to buy gold and silver coins for current customers.  The scheme failed in 2011 when he could no longer make coin purchases for new customers.  


Greg Fowler, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI for Oregon, stated: “Ponzi schemes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors—including gold and silver.  Many people have simply trusted that the precious metals market was a safe bet in a down economy.  This case demonstrates that you must always be cautious about how and with whom you invest your money.”


Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Former Comptroller Stole $53M from City of Dixon

Former Comptroller Stole $53M from City of Dixon


On November 14, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois announced the Rita A Crundwell pleaded guilty to stealing over $53 million from Dixon, Illinois since 1990.  She admitted that she used the proceeds to fund her quarter horse farming business and buy other personal items.


Crundwell pled guilty to wire fraud and money laundering.  She faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from the crime.  Prosecution believes she will receive between 15 years and eight months and 19 years and seven months in prison, but the defense estimates lower.  


She has agreed to pay $53,740,394 in restitution to the city of Dixon.  She also agreed to liquidate her assets, and the U.S. Marshals Service has received $7.4 million from auctions of about 400 quarter horses, trailers, vehicles, and a motor home so far.  


According to court documents, Crundwell opened a bank account in the name of Dixon and RSCDA.  She then used her position to transfer funds from the city’s Money Market account to its Capital Development Fund account and other city accounts.  She proceeded to transfer city funds to the RSCDA account and used the funds to pay for private expenses from 1990 to 2012.  


Crundwell was able to hide the nature of the transfers by creating fake invoices to show auditors that the funds were used legitimately.  She informed city officials that budgetary shortfalls occurred because the state was late on tax revenue payments to the city.  


She was eventually caught when a replacement was put into her position when she was on vacation.  The replacement asked for all of the city’s bank statements, and the individual eventually informed the Mayor of Crundwell’s activity.  


Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation
 

Russian Twins Indicted for $7.2M Commodities Fraud Scheme

Russian Twins Indicted for $7.2M Commodities Fraud Scheme


On October 19, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois announced that Marat Yunusov and Ayrat Yunusox of Kazan, Russia were charged with eight counts of wire fraud and two counts of commodities fraud.  The two men managed to profit $7.2 million by engaging in manipulative trading with the CME Group’s trading program.  


The indictment indicates that the brothers used the CME Globex electronic trading platform to collect about $7.2 million of profits from the futures commission merchant Velocity LLC.  However, the brothers failed to pay a $7.8 million loss to a separate merchant called Open E Cry LLC.  


The brothers attempted to match their accounts at Open E Cry and Velocity by issuing either a buy or a sell order for one account and then enter an equal by opposite amount of a buy or sell for the other account within seconds.  The brothers purposely initiated the orders towards the back of the month because trading volume was low and they were more likely to match the trade orders.  


They tested the commodities scheme in April of 2010 and managed to match a large amount of trades overnight on June 4, 2010.  They ultimately made it appear that profits covered the losses from another trade.  


Each of the men faces up to 25 years for each count of commodities fraud.  They also face a maximum of 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud.  There is a maximum fine of $250,000 associated with each count, and restitution is mandatory.  The court may also decide to issue a fine that is twice the loss to a victim or twice the gains for the defendant.  


The sentencing has not yet been scheduled.  The United States is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sunil Harjani.  


Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation
 

Woman Defrauded Nazi Persecution Reparation Program

Woman Defrauded Nazi Persecution Reparation Program


On October 19, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York made clear that Polina Breyter would spend the next 58 months in prison for defrauding the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Inc out of $57.3 million.  


According to court documents, the Claims Conference is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to provide assistance for surviving Nazi persecution victims.  Funds are distributed to “the Hardship Fund” and “the Article 2 Fund,” by Germany, and the Claims Office processes the applications for the disbursements.  


The Hardship Fund provides refugee victims with a payment of $3,500 one time, but Breyter and co-conspirators placed fraudulent applications for many people that were born after World War II and not Jewish.  According to the FBI, Breyter and co-conspirators submitted about 3,839 fraudulent applications.  


The Article 2 Fund provides monthly payments around $400 to victims that now make under $16,000.  Qualified applicants also lived in hiding or used a false identity for at least 18 months, were forced to live in a Jewish ghetto for 18 months, or were placed in a concentration camp for at least 6 months.  The fraud was more complex with the Article 2 Fund because co-conspirators had to create false documents that prove the victim’s prosecution by Nazi Germany.  About 1,112 Article 2 Fund applicants were discovered as fraudulent so far.  


Breyter agreed to file the falsified applications and received payments from other co-conspirators.  For her actions, he was sentenced to prison and ordered to pay restitution of $461,875.65 and forfeit $22,000.  31 people have been charged in the scheme so far.  


Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara noted, “Polina Breyter played a central role in a multi-million-dollar fraud scheme perpetrated against an organization whole sole mission is to provide relief to victims of Nazi atrocities.”  


Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation
 

NY Residents Operated $12 Million Ponzi Scheme

NY Residents Operated $12 Million Ponzi Scheme


On November 13, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia reported that Andrew S Mackey and his common-law wife, Inger L Jensen, were sentenced to prison for operating a Ponzi scheme.  Mackey received 27 years in prison, and Jensen received 14 years.  The two defendants were found guilty of 15 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, and mail fraud.  Mackey was also ordered to pay $6,650,067 in restitution.  


Court documents explain that Mackey and Jensen owned ASM Financial Funding Corporation from 2003 to 2007 in Valley Stream, New York.  The defendants marketed themselves as experts in investing who only worked with a small number of experienced investors, and they told potential investors that they placed money in offshore businesses.  The defendants promised investors that they could earn up to 20 percent interest in one month and told the investors they could choose to reinvest interest or receive the payments.  


Mackey and Jensen were able to defraud over 150 people out of over $12 million.  Evidence proved that the defendants invested less than a third of money and never made profits from the invested funds.  The defendants eventually lost all of the invested money, and the other two-thirds were used for personal expenses.  


None of the interest payments to investors were generated by trade proceeds.  The investors’ own money was used to pay them back in “investment payments.”


United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates stated: “Although we have prosecuted many multi-million-dollar Ponzi schemes in recent years, defendant Mackey’s sentence is the longest imposed in this district for a case of this type.”


Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “The lengthy sentences seen in this case reflect the damage done to the victim investors by these two defendants.”


Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Nigerian Fugitive Committed Massive Fraud Scheme

Nigerian Fugitive Committed Massive Fraud Scheme


On October 19, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas announced that Godwin Chiedo Nzeocha was convicted for participating in a health care fraud scheme involving City Nursing.  Nzeocha is a naturalized U.S. citizen from the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  


Nzeocha was charged on October 19, 2009, and he was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and money laundering as well.  He is ordered to forfeit a total of $1,098,320 to the United States.  


During his guilty plea, Nzeocha admitted that he left the United States after the owner of City Nursing Services of Texas Inc. and co-conspirator, Umawa Imo, was arrested and contacted Nzeocha.  He was eventually extradited to the United States from Nigeria and made his first appearance in court on June 27, 2012.  


During the health care fraud, Nzeocha admitted that he signed his name on patient documents for providing physical therapy even though he was not qualified to provide physical therapy and the patients did not qualify for the services as a Medicare beneficiary.  He signed blank treatment data forms, daily records, and progress notes.  


Nzeocha admitted that he knew Imo was buying information about Medicare beneficiaries from recruiters and even paying Medicare beneficiaries in order to bill Medicare for services that were never provided.  During the fraud scheme, Nzeocha was paid about $1,098,320 by City Nursing.  


City Nursing billed Medicare and Medicaid about $35,819,508 for services that were never provided to beneficiaries.  After the billing, City Nursing received about $26,233,122 in payments.  


Nzeocha faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each conviction.  He is scheduled for sentencing on January 18, 2013.  Umawa Imo received 327 months in prison for the health care fraud scheme.  


Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation