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Doctor sentenced to prison for Medicare fraud

Billed for hundreds of tests patients never got

Houston Chronicle - 16-03-25 Click here for original article       Back to Articles

A Houston doctor was sentenced Thursday to three and a half years in federal prison for fraudulently billing Medicare and Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of dollars in treatment and tests that patients didn't need or never received.

The sheer quantity of tests, prescriptions and bills generated by Enyibuaku Rita Uzoaga "exceeded that of any physician I've ever heard of, any of us has ever heard of," U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. said before issuing the sentence.

Uzoaga's office submitted $653,970 in claims to Medicare and Medicaid between 2006 and 2010 for vestibular tests, which are used to diagnose vertigo or dizziness. About half the claims were paid.

Uzoaga, 44, was convicted by a jury in November on six counts of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy. Her medical license was suspended March 8 by the Texas Medical Board.

A co-defendant, Charles Harris, 55, also known as Celestine Nwajfor, pleaded guilty on four related indictments and got a reduced sentence of just under three years.

Harris, who is not a physician, was doing business in Houston as Cevine Health Care and Rehabilitation Center and Patstel Healthcare and Rehabilitation Services. Harris received more than $100,000 in payments from Uzoaga, according to the indictment.

Uzoaga's attorney, Donald J. DeGabrielle, made a case Thursday for probation. He said sending her to prison would be a disservice to her thousands of patients.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Bradley, however, said that the scope of the fraud merited prison time for Uzoaga.

"This case was never about patient care, your honor. It was about money and it was about greed," she said.

Some patients were billed for hundreds of tests, though many were performed by unlicensed personnel or were not performed at all. Others were medically unnecessary.

Uzoaga, who has five children ages 12 to 21, remains free on her own recognizance. She agreed to voluntarily surrender to U.S. officials when summoned.

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