Nigerian immigrant learns U.S. due process comes at high cost

Oluwole Adegboruwa was sure a jury would understand he just wanted the best for his clients.

Charged with four counts of Medicaid fraud, the 45-year-old Las Vegas medical equipment supply store owner put his faith in the criminal justice system of the United States, where he came 11 years ago, he said, to escape political persecution for speaking out against the government in his native Nigeria.

But in October, Adegboruwa was found guilty of four felony and gross misdemeanor counts of false Medicaid claims, theft, intentionally inadequate records and unlawful use of another’s personal identification. Adegboruwa was ordered to pay $21,595.68 in restitution, triple the amount he was found to have defrauded the government program that provides care to people who cannot finance their medical expenses.

District Judge David Barker this month suspended what could have been up to eight years in prison, but he added new fees. Now Adegboruwa must pay the costs of the investigation and prosecution, a sum the Nevada attorney general’s office set at $344,000.

The judge also ordered Adegboruwa to have no involvement with any business that directly or indirectly receives Medicaid payments.

Adegboruwa learned the hard way that defendants can have their day in court, but due process in the U.S. sometimes comes at a high cost.

He insists that his actions that were deemed crimes were really nothing more than unfamiliarity with Medicaid billing protocols and his desire to meet the needs of his clients. The claims involved incontinence supplies — diapers, primarily — ordered by doctors to meet their elderly patients’ sanitation needs. Many clients complained the ordered products were insufficient, Adegboruwa says, so he would supply a larger, more absorbent variety, then bill Medicaid for the ordered diapers.

His Las Vegas defense attorney, Dean Kajioka, did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

But the senior deputy attorney general who prosecuted the case, Matthew Jensen, said Adegboruwa’s conduct went far beyond faulty bookkeeping or trying to meet his clients’ needs.

“There were many instances where he billed for items he did not supply,” Jensen said. “It wasn’t a mere billing error, but the outright intent to commit fraud.”

The prosecution offered the defense an opportunity to plead guilty to a gross misdemeanor, but Adegboruwa said a condition he could not accept would have required him to get out of the medical supply business.

After immigrating to the United States in 2004, Adegboruwa sold cars in Southern California before moving to Las Vegas, he said. In January 2008, Adegboruwa started distributing products through his company, Flotsol Medical Supply. He provided crutches, compression garments, walkers and incontinence supplies such as briefs, pads and protective underwear.

An investigation by the attorney general’s Medicaid fraud control unit into Flotsol began in September 2009 and revealed Adegboruwa created false documents and submitted fraudulent bills for medical supplies.

Any hope for Adegboruwa to avoid a criminal conviction likely vanished when he acknowledged that he billed Medicaid for products he never supplied. One of the jurors in Adegboruwa’s case even inquired to that effect, a question asked by the judge to one of the investigators.

“Does Medicaid have a reprimand, warnings or fines policy to deal with minor infractions to avoid wasting public funds prosecuting infractions involving small amounts of financial damages?” the juror wanted to know.

Jensen pointed out even that juror eventually voted to convict Adegboruwa on all charges.

Home health care or medical supply providers can follow a simple rule to avoid challenges to the performance of their work: Never bill for services or products that are not provided, Jensen said.

“If you have Medicaid patients, and you have not provided them the services,” he said, “yet you bill Medicaid as if you have completed those services, that’s the simple fact of fraud.”

Medicaid and Medicare both allow providers to correct bookkeeping errors such as overbilling or mistaken billing to keep them from rising to criminal matters, Jensen said.

Earlier this month, Adegboruwa removed the signs from his business advertising for Medicaid and Medicare patients. Even though the judge only barred him from ever accepting Medicaid payments, he will not take Medicare clients to avoid any future impropriety.

Adegboruwa continues to operate his business at 2411 W. Charleston Blvd., but he admits times will be tough because Medicare-Medicaid once accounted for about 50 percent of his business.

Despite the high price he paid, he has no regrets about foregoing the plea deal and proceeding to trial because he was able to keep his business and never had to admit to something he feels as if he didn’t do.

“I will never say that what I was accused of was intentional,” he said. “I never meant to deceive anyone.”

Contact Steven Moore at smoore@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563.

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