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Eighteen people from the Inland Empire and the Los Angeles area were arrested Thursday in what is believed to be the largest takedown by the U.S. Department of Justice's Medicare Fraud Strike Force.

The owners of Fendih Medical Supplies at 416 N. H St. in San Bernardino - Victoria Onyeabor, 52, and her husband, Godwin Onyeabor, 49, both of Ontario - are accused of conspiring with Dr. Sri J. Wijegunaratne, 57, of Anaheim to commit health care fraud.

According to the indictment, the Onyeabors received prescriptions for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs from Wijegunaratne in return for kickbacks.

They used the prescriptions to submit more than $1.5 million in fraudulent billing to Medicare.

Thursday's "enforcement actions reveal an alarming and unacceptable trend of individuals attempting to exploit federal health care programs to steal billions in taxpayer dollars for personal gain," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said.

"Such activities not only siphon precious taxpayer resources, drive up health care costs, and jeopardize the strength of the Medicare program - they also disproportionately victimize the most vulnerable members of society, including elderly, disabled and impoverished Americans."

Los Angeles-based Alpha Ambulance owners Alex Kapri, 55, of Hollywood Hills and Aleksey Muratov, 31, of Burbank as well as employees Wesley Kingsbury, 33, of Bloomington and Danielle Medina, 35, of Corona were arrested.

The company allegedly submitted claims for medically unnecessary transportation services and are accused of forging documentation to support those claims.

The owners of Bonfee Medical Supplies and Ibon, Inc. - Charles Agbu, 58, and his daughter, Brooke Agbu, 25, of Carson - were arrested for submitting more than $12.3 million in fraudulent claims from bogus prescriptions to Medicare, according to the indictment.

Dr. Emmanuel Ayodele, 64, of Westlake and Dr. Juan Van Putten, 65, of Ladera Heights as well as patient recruiters Alejandro Maciel, 41, and Candelaria Estrada, 37, both of Huntington Park, were arrested in connection to providing the prescriptions to the Agbus.

"The FBI is committed to addressing criminal activity in the healthcare system that drains the Medicare program of billions each year, a cost borne by taxpayers in the end," said Timothy J. Delaney, acting assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office.

"The defendants are accused in various cases of schemes targeting Medicare beneficiaries, primarily the elderly, and billing the federal government at inflated rates for services, or for services that were never provided."

Tigran Aklyan, 36, of Van Nuys, owner of San Gabriel-based Las Tunas Medical Equipment, was arrested on accusations that he submitted more than $900,000 in fraudulent billings to Medicare, primarily for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs.

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force is part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team, a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services. The group aims to prevent and deter fraud and enforce anti-fraud laws.

doug.saunders@inlandnewspapers.com

909-386-3925, @crimeshutterbug