Medicare bilked of $13 million
The Medicare fraud millionaire who bragged of his success on Myspace was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of nearly $13.4 million to the insurer.
Henry Lamont Jones, 37, of Zachary, was ordered by U.S. District Judge James J. Brady to report to federal prison no later than 2 p.m. Sept. 24.
“The lengthy sentence imposed on Mr. Henry Jones today reflects his fraudulent impact on the Medicare program,” said William W. Root, a federal investigator, after the hearing.
Root is assistant special agent in charge of Louisiana investigations for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“The Medicare Fraud Strike Force team proved Mr. Jones stole over $13 million from a program that insures our most vulnerable citizens,” Root added. “It was a rewarding day for all honest Americans.”
Justice Department prosecutor Ben Curtis told the judge prior to announcement of the sentence that Jones served five years in state prison for convictions on charges of second-degree battery and accessory-after-the-fact to armed robbery.
Upon Jones’ release from prison in 2000, Curtis said: “He began committing health care fraud while he was on probation.”
Curtis asked Brady to sentence Jones within federal guidelines, action that would have meant a prison term of at least 30 years.
Jones took “as much as he could from the piggy bank,” Curtis added.
Addressing Brady, Jones said he was grateful for a judge “who still believes in fairness and justice for all.” Jones then said he expected “justice from this court and also mercy.”
Stephanie Borghardt and C. Frank Holthaus, Jones’ attorneys, asked for leniency.
Curtis wanted Jones jailed immediately.
Jones had been convicted in two Medicare trials before he pleaded guilty in a third scheme in January, Curtis said, adding Jones has had eight months to get his affairs in order.
“It’s time for him to go in, judge,” said Curtis. He said immediate incarceration would eliminate the possibility that Jones would flee rather than enter prison.
“I urge the court not to do that,” Holthaus said on Jones’ behalf. Holthaus said Jones did not miss any of his court hearings and trials.
Brady ruled Jones could remain free until Sept. 24.
“What you did was certainly reprehensible,” the judge told Jones. “This type of conduct is not going to be tolerated.”
Brady added: “You went hog wild. You cheated the government. You cheated the people who testified here.”
During two trials last year, FBI and HHS agents testified Jones led schemes in which recruiters were paid to entice Medicare beneficiaries to health fairs, where they met briefly with physicians.
The beneficiaries were duped into providing their Social Security and Medicare numbers and other personal information, according to prosecution witnesses. The physicians were paid by members of Jones’ teams to write prescriptions for expensive power wheelchairs and other medical equipment.
Some recipients of the wheelchairs and other equipment testified they neither needed nor wanted it. Some testified the equipment was too big to be brought into their homes.
Federal investigators testified some power wheelchairs, which cost more than $6,000, were left outside and unused.
Jones controlled at least three of the companies that sold the equipment paid for by Medicare, the nation’s health insurer for the elderly and disabled.
Dozens of patient and physician recruiters, equipment company owners and doctors have been convicted in Baton Rouge since formation of the local Medicare Fraud Strike Force in December 2009.
“This is the end of a very long saga,” Holthaus, Jones’ lead attorney, said after Tuesday’s hearing. “I think the sentence was very fair.”
On Myspace, Jones once told the world he made his first $1 million in 2006, adding: “It would be the first of many to come.”