Southland pastor pleads guilty in $12 million Medicare fraud scheme
City News Service | 12/17/2012, 7:15 p.m.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.--A Los Angeles-area church pastor pleaded guilty today to conspiring with doctors, the operators of fraudulent medical clinics, street-level patient recruiters and others to defraud Medicare of more than $11 million.
Charles Agbu, 58, of Carson entered his plea before U.S. District Judge George H. Wu to one count each of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and money laundering, according to the Department of Justice, which is also prosecuting his daughter.
Agbu admitted that he submitted fraudulent claims for highly-specialized power wheelchairs and other equipment through a medical supply company he owned and operated, prosecutors said.
A co-defendant, Dr. Juan Tomas Van Putten, pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to defraud Medicare and admitted that he accepted payments in exchange for writing medically unnecessary prescriptions for power wheelchairs and other equipment.
According to court documents, Agbu and co-conspirators submitted about $12 million in false claims to Medicare and pocketed nearly $6 million on those claims. He also admitted laundering cash when he transferred over $10,000 of these illicit Medicare funds between various bank accounts, DOJ prosecutors said.
Agbu faces up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine when he is sentenced in May, and Van Putten faces up to 10 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine at his sentencing hearing in March.
Co-defendants Dr. Emmanuel Ayodele, Alejandro Maciel, Candalaria Estrada and Agbu's daughter, Obiageli Agbu, are scheduled for trial in February for their alleged roles in the conspiracy.