Two Slidell residents were sentenced Thursday in Baton Rouge to federal prison terms for health care frauds that cost Medicare $17.1 million.
Louis T. Age, 64, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge James J. Brady to a prison term of 15 years. Age’s ex-wife Verna Age, 60, received a 5-year sentence. The judge ordered both to pay $17.1 million in restitution and forfeit $9.2 million in assets.
As outlined at two trials by Justice Department prosecutors David M. Maria and Abigail B. Taylor, Louis Age owned South Louisiana Home Health Care, which had offices in New Orleans and Houma. Verna Age was a part owner and also served as the firm’s director of nursing.
One prosecution witness in the case, New Orleans patient recruiter Milton Womack, 60, was shot to death in New Orleans in July 2012, prior to the first of the two trials. Womack’s killing has not been solved.
Targeted by the Baton Rouge Medicare Fraud Strike Force, South Louisiana Home Health Care was linked by felonious physicians to people in Baton Rouge, Baker and Prairieville who committed more than $2 million in additional frauds against Medicare.
Dr. Dahlia V. Kirkpatrick, 70, of LaPlace, was sentenced in January 2011 to 30 months in prison for writing phony prescriptions for $302,811 in power wheelchairs charged to Medicare by Emmanuel M. Komandu through his Baker business, Alpha Medical Solutions Inc.
Dr. Anthony S. Jase, 43, of New Orleans, has yet to be sentenced for his admission that he helped Baton Rouge businessman Benjamin Amadi fraudulently charge Medicare $1.2 million for power wheelchairs through Amadi’s firm, Liberty Medical Services LLC.
Jase also admitted that he helped the owners of a Baton Rouge firm, Lobdale Medical Services, steal $470,386 from Medicare. Young Okoro Anyanwu and his wife, Beatrice Anyanwu, sold power wheelchairs through their business, Lobdale Medical. The Anyanwues have been convicted on federal felony charges in that case.
Jase and Kirkpatrick also admitted that they signed medically unnecessary prescriptions for home health care patients of South Louisiana Home Health Care in return for kickbacks.
But bigger frauds were admitted by Dr. Michael S. Hunter, 56, of New Orleans. Hunter said his phony prescriptions cost Medicare $3.38 million and that he was paid $2,500 per month to recommend home health care for hundreds of people he never examined or interviewed.
Hunter has not yet been sentenced for his guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
Trial evidence did not appear daunting to either Louis or Verna Age.
Louis Age, in fact, remained politely defiant Thursday.
“As I stand before you, I’ll take my punishment as a man,” Louis Age told the judge. “I’ve never been involved in a crime.”
Brady, however, told Age: “You entered into a scheme to defraud the taxpayers of this country of a sizeable amount of money.” The judge added: “This was an operation run on greed.”
Verna Age, like her ex-husband, told the judge that prosecution witnesses lied about her involvement in fraudulent schemes.
Maria, saying that Louis Age is a flight risk, asked Brady to order that the man be taken into immediate custody.
The judge denied the prosecution request, but ordered Age to continue wearing an ankle monitor and not to leave St. Tammany Parish without prior authorization by a federal probation officer.
Brady ordered Louis Age to report to federal prison by 2 p.m. Sept. 19. The judge told Verna Age to report to prison by 2 p.m. Sept. 16.
Louis Age announced earlier that he will appeal his conviction. Verna Age has 14 days to decide whether she will ask the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn her conviction.