The owner of South Louisiana Home Health Care Inc. and the director of nursing for the Louisiana home health agency were sentenced today for their roles in a Medicare fraud scheme involving the payment of kickbacks and the falsification of documents.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Walt Green of the Middle District of Louisiana; Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields of the Dallas Region of the HHS Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG); Special Agent in Charge Michael Anderson of the FBI’s New Orleans Division; and Louisiana State Attorney General James Buddy Caldwell made the announcement.
Louis T. Age Jr., 64, owned and operated South Louisiana Home Health Care and operated this company along with his former wife, Verna Age, 60, who served as the company’s director of nursing. Louis Age and Verna Age, both of Slidell, Louisiana, were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge James J. Brady of the Middle District of Louisiana to 180 months and 60 months in prison, respectively, and ordered to forfeit $9.2 million and pay $17.1 in restitution.
After a jury trial in March 2013, Louis Age and Verna Age each were convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and Louis Age also was convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay or receive illegal health care kickbacks. Verna Age previously was convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay or receive illegal health care kickbacks after a jury trial in October 2012.
According to evidence presented at trial, Louis Age and Verna Age paid kickbacks to patient recruiters to obtain Medicare beneficiary information. Nurses, including registered nurse Verna Age, then falsified qualification documents to make it appear that these beneficiaries qualified for home health services. The evidence also showed that Louis Age hired and paid kickbacks to medical doctors to sign fraudulent referrals and certifications for home health services that were not medically necessary. Louis Age and Verna Age then used the Medicare beneficiary information and false documents to bill Medicare for the medically unnecessary home health services. From 2005 through 2011, Medicare paid South Louisiana Home Health Care approximately $17.1 million based on these fraudulent home health care claims.
This case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Louisiana State Attorney General’s Office and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys David M. Maria and Abigail B. Taylor of the Fraud Section, with assistance from Trial Attorney Arunabha Bhoumik.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.