Palos Heights man sentenced for defrauding Medicare of $2.9 million
Sun-Times Media December 20, 2012 9:54PM
Updated: December 20, 2012 10:04PM
A Palos Heights man was sentenced to prison and ordered to pay $2.9 million in restitution Thursday after prosecutors argued his health care business defrauded Medicare and “preyed” upon the elderly and vulnerable.
Bahir Haj Khalil, 34, was sentenced to the 10 years in prison — the maxim allowed under sentencing guidelines — by federal Judge Charles Kocoras, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago.
Khalil, who was a co-owner and manager of House Call Physicians, was convicted in September of defrauding Medicare of more than $2.9 million, submitting thousands of false claims to the government-financed health care provider.
Two of Khalil’s former business partners were convicted of lesser offenses in connection with the fraud, prosecutors say, including one man who helped federal authorities investigate Khalil.
“Khalil preyed on Medicare beneficiaries — people who were sick, elderly and disabled — and exploited them because they were vulnerable and easy to use to accomplish his fraud. To Khalil, the math was simple: Find people on Medicare; perform unnecessary tests and services; bill Medicare; get paid,” prosecutors said in the release.
Prosecutors argued Khalil, a Syrian native and Canadian citizen, is not approved to conduct business in the U.S., has no medical experience and was not licensed to provide medical care when he founded the business in 2006.
The whole time he operated the business he submitted false compensation claims to Medicare, sometimes ordering painful tests for his clients that were unnecessary, prosecutors said.
The business told clients that services were performed by licensed doctors when they were, in fact, performed by physicians’ assistants, prosecutors alleged.
One of Khalil’s business partners, Paschal U. Oprarah of South Holland, purported to be a licensed podiatrist, but was actually suspended from practice.
Oparah, 47, pled guilty to health care fraud last April and was sentenced to 18 months in prison after helping authorities with their investigation, prosecutors said. He was ordered to pay $791,000 in restitution.
A third man, Mohammed Khamis Rashed, a 46-year-old former City of Chicago engineer, was sentenced to one count of visa fraud after he tried to illegally obtain a work visa for Khalil.
Rashed, who also invested in Khalil’s business, was fined $20,000 and sentenced to six months in prison.
Prosecutors allege Khalil defrauded Medicare for over five years, from the day he opened his business until his arrest in July 2011. He will be deported when he is released from prison.