An Ontario man and two others, including an Anaheim physician, were found guilty Wednesday in federal court of defrauding the Medicare system of $1.5 million dollars through kickbacks and unnecessary prescriptions, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Godwin Onyeabor, 49, of Ontario, Sri J. Wijegunaratne, 58, of Anaheim and Heidi Morishita, 48, of Valencia are each facing up to 10 years in prison for the fraud, according to federal authorities.
Trial evidence presented in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California showed Onyeabor, who was an officer at Fendih Medical Supply in San Bernardino, paid kickbacks to Wijegunaratne and Morishita for providing Onyeabor's company with unnecessary prescriptions for medical supplies, including electric wheelchairs.
Onyeabor, who reportedly owns the medical supply company with his wife, Victoria Onyeabor, 52, then billed Medicare for the equipment.
Authorities say the trio committed the fraud from January 2007 to February 2012.
Prosecutors introduced evidence at trial from Medicare beneficiaries stating they had been promised free juice and vitamins to receive care at certain medical clinics, according to the news release. They testified they later received a power wheelchair they did not want and attempts to reject the chairs from Fendih Medical Supply were unsuccessful.
Wijegunaratne was found guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and six counts of health care fraud. Onyeabor was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and 11 counts of health care fraud. All three, including Morishita, were found guilty of one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, according to the news release.
A search of Wijegunaratne's record on the Medical Board of California's website shows the Anaheim doctor does have a valid license to practice medicine in the state under the name Wijegoonaratna. Wijegunaratne practices geriatrics in Orange, records show.
The three were investigated as part of a large, nationwide investigation that focused on Medicare fraud in Baton Rouge, La., Brooklyn, NY., Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Houston and Los Angeles late last year.
According to FBI officials, the Los Angeles-area cases allegedly bilked Medicare out of more than $65 million and is believed to be the highest amount in fraudulent Medicare billing in the history of the Los Angeles Medicare Fraud Strike Force.
During last year's sweep, a total of 91 people were arrested nationwide and 18 in Southern California, federal officials said.
The Medicare Fraud Strike Force was formed in March 2007 as part of the health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team. The strike force is now operating in nine cities across the country and has charged nearly 1,500 people for Medicare fraud, officials said.
Anyone with information on Medicare fraud is asked to report it by logging on to stopmedicarefraud.gov.