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Carson pastor pleads guilty to $11 million in Medicare fraud

A Carson pastor pleaded guilty Monday to submitting more than $11 million in Medicare reimbursement through fraudulent clinics and by promising patients expensive equipment, according to the Department of Justice.

Charles Agbu, 58, of Carson, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of money laundering in U.S. District Court. 

Agbu, a pastor at Pilgrim Congregational Church, faces up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine when he is sentenced in May.

Agbu admitted to owning Bonfee Inc., a fraudulent medical equipment supply company, and acknowledged that he paid patient recruiters to approach Medicare beneficiaries and convinced them to give him their Medicare information in exchange for specialized power wheelchairs, officials say.

Agbu would then bill Medicare officials for the wheelchairs without delivering them to his clients. He also admitted to paying for fake prescriptions and other fraudulent documents in order to be able to continue  billing Medicare for medical equipment, authorities say.

Dr. Juan Tomas Van Putten, a doctor whom Agbu paid $100 to $400 each for fake prescriptions pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to commit Medicare fraud. Van Putten, who is scheduled to be sentenced in March, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Other co-defendants - Dr. Emmanuel Ayodele, Alejandro Maciel, Candalaria Estrada and Charles Agbu’s daughter, Obiageli Agbu - are scheduled for trial in February.

The case was brought by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a special unit of investigators launched in May 2009 by the Justice and Health and Human Services departments.

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-- Wesley Lowery

 
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