Wheelchair supplier indicted in D.C. Medicare fraud scheme

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Local,Crime,Scott McCabe

A Laurel woman who fled the country on the heels of an D.C. Medicare fraud investigation has been indicted in a $500,000 scheme involving power wheelchairs and incontinence supplies, according to charging documents.

Patricia Mubanga Chisanga, 33, the chief operating officer for Emerald Medical Services, disappeared last summer, shortly after federal agents visited her office in Northwest Washington, court documents indicated.

Uche Ben Odunzeh, the owner of the business and the father of her child, pleaded guilty in October to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

According to court papers, two weeks after agents handed Chisanga a letter from the U.S. Attorney's Office for D.C. stating that she was under investigation for federal health care fraud, law enforcement officials received a tip that she and Odunzeh were planning to flee the country.

Federal agents learned that Chisanga had obtained a one-way ticket to Ethiopia from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport for a flight that departed earlier that day. She was accompanied on her flight by a minor child with the last name Odunzeh.

Agents also discovered that Ben Odunzeh, 31, also of Laurel, had bought a ticket to Nigeria for later in the week. He was arrested at the airport.

According to prosecutors, from 2008 to 2011, Emerald Medical submitted 100 claims to D.C.'s Medicaid program for power wheelchairs for about $591,000. The D.C. Medicaid program reimbursed Emerald about $480,000.

Those claims were for the most expensive power wheelchair, worth about $6,100 each, but Emerald provided only more basic, less expensive wheelchairs.

Emerald Medical also submitted about $45,000 in claims for adult incontinence supplies such as diapers, disposable underpads and gloves that it never actually provided.

Odunzeh, a Nigerian national whose visa expired in 2004, admitted to embezzling more than $275,000 from the District of Columbia from 2008 to 2011. He faces 10 years in prison at his sentencing scheduled for Jan. 16.

smccabe@washingtonexaminer.com

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Scott McCabe

Staff Writer - Crime
The Washington Examiner