Chicago, Illinois - Husband and wife co-owners of a Chicago-area home health agency pleaded guilty Friday for their roles in a scheme to obtain millions of dollars in Medicare reimbursements through the payment of kickbacks for patient referrals.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. of the Northern District of Illinois, Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey S. Sallet of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office made the announcement.
Carmencita Agno, 52, and Emmanuel Agno, 54, both of Streamwood, Illinois, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to offer and pay kickbacks before U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Coleman of the Northern District of Illinois. Sentencing has been scheduled for Sept. 19, 2019, before Judge Coleman.
As part of their guilty pleas, Carmencita Agno and Emmanuel Agno each admitted that they caused Renaissance Home Health Services Inc. (Renaissance) of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, a home health agency they both co-owned, to make concealed kickback payments to patient marketers and other sources of Medicare patient referrals. As a result of these illegal kickback payments, Renaissance improperly obtained approximately $1.6 million in profits. Carmencita Agno and Emmanuel Agno further admitted that they caused Axis Healthcare Services Inc. (Axis) of Rolling Meadows, Illinois, another home health agency co-owned by Carmencita Agno and for which Emmanuel Agno served as the administrator, to make approximately $365,000 in illegal kickback payments to Maristel Canete, 49, formerly of Streamwood, a patient marketer. In order to conceal the illegal nature of the payments to Canete, the conspirators caused Axis to enter into sham contracts with companies set up by Canete for receiving the payments.
Carmencita Agno and Emmanuel Agno were charged along with Canete and Antonio Clavero, age 50, of Schiller Park, Illinois, in a superseding indictment returned on June 16, 2016. Clavero pleaded guilty on Sept. 29, 2017, and is awaiting sentencing; Canete is a fugitive.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG. Trial Attorney Patrick Mott of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is prosecuting the case.
The Medicare Fraud Strike Force is part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 14 strike forces operating in 23 districts, has charged nearly 4,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $14 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.