Sentencing awaited in health care fraud case

The operators of a Baton Rouge medical equipment supplier are awaiting November sentencings following their guilty pleas to federal health care fraud charges, U.S. Attorney Walt Green said Wednesday.

Imeh U. Ebere, 55, of Baton Rouge, admitted Tuesday that she submitted numerous fraudulent claims to Medicare for nutrition-related products she had purportedly provided to Medicare beneficiaries, even though the beneficiaries did not have feeding tubes and thus did not need enteral nutrition and did not qualify for it, Green said.

Enteral nutrition is administered via a feeding tube and is designed for people who suffer from health conditions that prevent food from reaching the digestive tract, which prevents them from maintaining their weight and strength.

Ebere admitted submitting roughly $800,000 in enteral nutrition-related claims alone through her company, Golden Medical Edquipment & Supply Inc., from 2003 through 2011, Green said.

She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. She faces up to 10 years in prison and hefty fines.

In the same case, Sheila R. Hives, 51, of Baker, pleaded guilty last week to receiving health care kickbacks from Ebere, Green said.

Hives faces up to five years in prison and fines.

Hives admitted she received kickbacks from Ebere to induce Hives to refer Medicare beneficiaries to Ebere and Golden Medical, Green said.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson is scheduled to sentence Ebere on Nov. 20 and Hives on Nov. 7.

A federal grand jury indicted Ebere and Hives in 2012.

The Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, FBI and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the state Attorney General’s Office investigated the case. It was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Fraud Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division.