Phony Prescriptions: Conviction For Scammers Who Recruited San Franciscans For Medicare Fraud

Two medical equipment supply company owners and an associate have been convicted in federal court in San Francisco of conspiring in a $1.6 million Medicare fraud concerning power wheelchairs.

The three defendants were convicted by a jury on Wednesday after a 13-day trial and will be sentenced on March 20 by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White.

Patrick Sogbein, 51, and Adebola Adebimpe, 45, of Santa Clarita in Los Angeles County, are a husband and wife who each owned a medical supply company.

The third defendant, Eduardo Abad, 56, of San Francisco, recruited patients in the city whose names were used in phony prescriptions for wheelchairs and accessories.

The patients “did not need them and in many cases, did not even want them,” according to a 2012 federal grand jury indictment.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said the jury in White’s court found that Sogbein and Adebimpe submitted more than $3.2 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare for more than 400 wheelchairs and accessories between 2006 and 2011. They were paid more than $1.6 million by the federal agency.

A doctor who wrote the prescriptions, Edna Calaustro, 69, and another recruiter, Mele Saavedra, 48, both of San Francisco, pleaded guilty this fall to conspiracy and health care fraud charges and will be sentenced on Feb. 27.

Haag said evidence at the trial showed that Sogbein paid Calaustro $100 for each phony prescription and gave Abad $100 and Saavedra $50 for each patient they recruited.

Calaustro worked at the Health Haven Medical Clinic on Mission Street in San Francisco.

Haag said the evidence indicated that Abad and Saavedra recruited patients at locations in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods, including a fast food restaurant at the Powell Street cable car turnaround and a Tenderloin neighborhood senior center.

After the patients were identified, Calaustro and one of the recruiters went to their homes with a portable copy machine, copied their Medicare cards, and conducted sham examinations for the required Medicare paperwork, Haag said.

Sogbein, Adedimpe and Abad were each convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and individual counts of fraud. Those counts each carry a possible maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Sogbein and Abad were also found guilty of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks for the bogus patient referrals. The maximum sentence for that conviction is five years in prison.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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