Doctor, Power Wheelchair Recruiter Sentenced for Health Care Fraud

A San Francisco doctor and a recruiter for power wheelchair companies were sentenced Tuesday for a conspiracy with three other defendants to collect $1.6 million in fraudulent Medicare claims, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Edna Calaustro, 71, was sentenced in federal court to 24 months in prison and Mele Saavedra, 49, was sentenced to three years’ probation after they pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco last year to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to receive kickbacks involving the Medicare program and health care fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.

Calaustro and Saavedra both then testified against their co-conspirators, Patrick Sogbein, Adebola Adebimpe and Eduardo Abad, who were convicted of the charges at trial. In June, Sogbein was sentenced to 12 years in prison, Adebimpe to 4 years and Abad to a year, prosecutors said.

Between December 2006 and June 2011, Abad and Saavedra would recruit patients in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods in San Francisco for power wheelchairs. Calaustro would then visit their home for an examination and write them prescriptions for the wheelchairs, prosecutors said.

The wheelchairs would then be provided by either Sogbein or Adebimpe, who each owned a power wheelchair distribution company, and they would pay Calaustro kickbacks of $50-100. They filed more than 400 fraudulent Medicare claims this way, and collected $1.6 million.

Once released, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White also sentenced Calaustro to three years of supervised release. She will also have to pay nearly $1.6 million in restitution to the Medicare system. Saavedra will need to perform 500 hours of community service and have to pay $275,338 in restitution.

Scott Morris, Bay City News

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