Health care professionals are entrusted with the well-being of their patients through many services that people need when faced with poor health and medical situations. But, sometimes, even health care professionals and the executives who lead their agencies aren’t always on the straight and narrow.
A relevant and recent example relates to a federal fugitive from Texas who stole millions of dollars in a Medicare fraud scheme in which he and his associates preyed on vulnerable people such as the elderly, disabled and homeless.
Sentenced to 80 years, wife received 75 years
Ebong Tolong of Sugar Land, Texas, remains at large after nearly six months on the lam. He disappeared in October on the day he was to be sentenced. But in his absence, the judge gave Tolong an 80-year prison sentence. Months earlier, the same judge handed down a 75-year prison sentence to Tolong’s wife, Neba.
Laundry list of misdeeds
The Tolongs and their associates committed a laundry list of misdeeds that bilked U.S. taxpayers out of $13 million. From the couple’s home, they operated Fiango Home Healthcare Co. for nine years. Here is what happened:
- With the money they stole through Medicare, the Tolongs paid kickbacks to patient recruiters for referring Medicare beneficiaries to their business. The couple even paid kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries for letting their business bill Medicare for services that weren’t necessary or weren’t provided.
- The Tolongs also falsified medical records to make it appear as if Medicare beneficiaries qualified for and got home health services.
- They also filed false income tax returns.
- Three of the Tolongs’ associates also were convicted. They included two patient recruiters and the former medical director of the home.
Integrity is vital among health care professionals. It helps build strong reputation for providers and rapport with the community and patients. There’s no room in the industry for Medicare fraud.