Medicare fraud suspects appear in court

July 31, 2009 4:59:11 AM PDT
There was a crowded courtroom Thursday as nearly two dozen people faced a judge on Medicare fraud charges. The men and women in court were arrested during a nationwide Medicare fraud roundup Wednesday. Read the indictments More than 200 federal agents worked in the bust that included warrants on health care businesses and homes across the Houston area. In some cases, investigators say claims for motorized wheelchairs were made on behalf of patients who were no longer alive.

Other businesses are accused of giving patients expensive "arthritis kits" which were nothing more than knee and shoulder braces. But families of the accused claim that innocent people have been swept up in the broad net of indictments.

"An indictment is easy to obtain. We'll just have to see how the facts line up," said John Mukoro, attorney for suspect Helen Etinfoh.

"My client is innocent of all charges and would be happy at the opportunity to defend himself," said attorney Okey Dike, who's representing suspect Oliver Nkuku.

"We hope it's not a case where we are being targeted because of the sound of our last names," added Maduka Nkuku, brother of suspect Oliver Nkuku.

Judges have set individual bonds for each of the suspects. In some cases, they also barred them from performing any service that requires Medicare funding.

In all, 32 people were arrested nationwide in Houston, New York, Lousiana and Boston.

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