Two charged in $30 million fraud scheme

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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

HOUSTON, Texas - The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Texas in October handed down an indictment of two more people involved in the Wheeler Dealer scandal there, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Al Balboni.

The two people, Dr. Callie Hall Herpin, 33, and office manager Etta Mae Williams, 46, were charged with conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program of $30 million and health care fraud.

The indictment alleges that Herpin and Williams signed CMNs authorizing motorized wheelchairs for Medicare beneficiaries for a $200 fee regardless of need. It also says Herpin often never saw the patients, and patient files were then created to make it appear as if there had been an office visit.

Balboni said the alleged action of Herpin and Williams are a part of the greater fraud problem, dubbed “Wheeler Dealer,” that rocked the Houston area in 2003.

“There was a cottage industry in the greater Houston area involving a number of doctors and hundreds of DME companies,” said Balboni. “We are slowly working our way through, determining which ones are worthy of pursuing prosecution.”

So far, about 10 people have been charged in cases relating to Wheeler Dealer, he said, and the office is still reeling under a mountain of evidence and ongoing investigations. It is now sorting through the information and trying to match the fraudulent DMEs with the doctors they got signatures from.

“There is just so much of it and so few of us that we are just having a resource issue bringing it all together,” said Balboni.

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