Ex-ambulance service owner gets probation in fraud case

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The former owner of a northwest Indiana ambulance service has avoided prison after pleading guilty in a health care fraud case that cost the government of millions of dollars.

A federal judge in Hammond sentenced Basil Ubanwa, 63, on Thursday to 12 months of probation and ordered him to pay a $50,000 fine. Ubanwa, who pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud, has also agreed to pay $2.1 million in restitution.

The government had previously seized more than $1.9 million from the Crown Point man’s bank accounts, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Abizer Zanzi said in a court filing that his office agreed to probation for Ubanwa in part because of his health issues.

Ubanwa orchestrated a scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid of millions of dollars through Northwest Ambulance Services, the Crown Point-based ambulance company he owned and operated from 2007 through 2018, prosecutors said.

His company became the second-highest Medicare/Medicaid-paid ambulance provider in Indiana, generating $17 million in fees from transporting just 167 patients over those years, prosecutors said.

Medicare doesn’t pay the high cost of ambulance transportation of patients requiring dialysis treatment unless the patients cannot use wheelchair vans. But the government alleged Ubanwa skirted that regulation by instructing his employees to falsify data about the patients’ mobility.

Federal agents saw at least one patient walk on her own from one of Ubanwa’s ambulances into her home after a dialysis treatment, prosecutors said.

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