- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The owner of a D.C. Medicaid transportation company has been convicted on federal charges of bilking the District and federal governments out of $1.8 million in a scam that included using dead people’s identities.

The arrest and conviction of the owner, Akube Ndoromo James, 45, also included a federal seizure of $1.2 million from James’ bank accounts, which prosecutors say is the largest cash seizure in the history of the D.C. Medicaid program.

James was found guilty Friday in federal court and immediately put in jail to await his sentencing in June. He likely will be sentenced to at least five years in prison, authorities said.

Jeffrey A. Taylor, U.S. attorney for the District, yesterday said James used the Medicaid program as “his personal cash trough” and called the conviction a “huge victory” for the District and federal governments.

James was charged with vastly inflating the number of trips his company provided to Medicaid patients in invoices submitted to the District’s Medicaid office. He ran his transportation business from his apartment in Northwest.

According to court records, James’ company, the Voice of Social Concern, became one of the biggest Medicaid transportation companies in the District, billing the government $2.1 million from 2001 to 2005.

Medicaid paid James on the majority of the claims he submitted, or more than $1.8 million during its four years in operation, records show.

However, based on the billing records, James should have been paid only $6,000, prosecutors said.

In an interview with The Washington Times shortly after the seizure of his assets, James denied wrongdoing.

“There is zero fraud,” he said.

However, in court records, authorities said James submitted transportation claims in more than 200 cases for reimbursement for Medicaid recipients who were dead. He also submitted claims on days when heavy snow filled city streets, authorities said.

James’ case illustrated some of the more widespread problems that have plagued the city’s Medicaid transportation program over the years, including a lack of oversight, as reported by The Washington Times last year.

A review of billing records by The Times found numerous problems with the program, including companies whose officials had criminal records and poor driving records. D.C. officials said they’ve since reformed the program, which also came under scrutiny by the D.C. Council last year.

The D.C. Office of the Inspector General also has issued a series of reports highlighting troubles in the program. The most recent, issued last month, found several problems with the city’s plans to privatize management of the Medicaid transportation program.

Auditors said bid prices submitted by three contractors were based on the District’s “excessively high” estimate of how many rides Medicaid patients need each year.

The report also stated the situation had “the potential to grossly inflate” contractor profits.

In response, D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. Gregg A. Pane said the city has fixed the problems. He also said privatizing the management of the transportation program will “ferret out fraud, waste and abuse while improving access to medical services.”

The Voice of Social Concern was one of at least two large Medicaid transportation companies in the District that have come under criminal investigation in recent years.

Last year, federal authorities filed a search warrant on three vans operated by Mash Transportation of Hyattsville. The documents said investigators were looking into whether the company billed the District for rides after Medicaid recipients died. The company has not been charged with wrongdoing.


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