Destrehan man pleaded guilty in Medicare fraud scheme

Published 11:45 pm Friday, March 20, 2015

By Stephen Hemelt

NEW ORLEANS — A St. Charles Parish man faces a July sentencing following his guilty plea this week for his role in a $50 million Medicare fraud scheme.

Christopher White, 48, of Destrehan pleaded guilty Wednesday before Chief U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance of the Eastern District of Louisiana to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to falsify records in a federal investigation.

According to his plea agreement, White managed financial and accounting services at Paige Okpalobi’s companies and other companies.

White admitted he coordinated the payment of patient recruiters, who illegally sold Medicare beneficiary information to Okpalobi and her co-conspirators. This information was used by home health companies operated by Okpalobi and others to bill Medicare for home health care services that were not medically necessary and often not delivered at all. 

Okpalobi and White each admitted they fabricated tax and employment records in response to a federal grand jury subpoena to conceal the illegal kickbacks paid and mislead the grand jury.

Okpalobi admitted that between 2007 and 2014, she caused the submission of $49,989,323 in claims to Medicare for home health services that were not medically necessary or not provided. Thirteen individuals have been indicted in connection with this Medicare fraud scheme, according to federal officials, and eight have pleaded guilty, including two doctors employed at Okpalobi’s medical clinic.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell, U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite Jr., FBI Special Agent Michael J. Anderson, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office Special Agent Mike Fields and Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell each took part in the guilty plea announcement this week.

According to her plea agreement, Okpalobi owned and operated a New Orleans-based medical clinic that employed doctors to certify Medicare beneficiaries were qualified to receive home health care. Okpalobi admitted doctors falsely certified certain clients were homebound and in need of home health care services. She and others used the false certifications to bill Medicare.