Richmond Clinic Owners to Pay Settlement Over False Medicare Claims for Acupuncture Devices

Richmond Clinic Owners to Pay Settlement Over False Medicare Claims for Acupuncture Devices

The owners of a Richmond clinic, Ijeoma Bethel, 43, Sugar Land, Yvonne Hernandez, 41, Houston, and Nick Bryant Villegas, 43, Pearland, have agreed to pay a total of up to $108,000 to settle allegations of submitting false claims, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

The trio, owners of Texas Wellness Clinic PLLC in Richmond, includes Bethel and Villegas, who are nurse practitioners, and Hernandez, a chiropractor.

Between Jan. 27, 2016, and Sept. 16, 2020, Bethel, Villegas, Hernandez, and Texas Wellness Clinic allegedly billed Medicare for surgical implantation of neurostimulator electrodes, typically requiring an operating room. Medicare reimburses thousands of dollars per procedure.

The government claimed that, contrary to the billing, no surgery occurred. Instead, patients received devices for electro-acupuncture, involving the insertion of needles into the ears and affixing the neurostimulator behind the ears with adhesive.

As part of the settlement, Texas Wellness Clinic agreed to pay up to $108,000 and undergo a five-year exclusion from participating in any federal health care programs.

Campbell Medical Clinic in Houston previously employed Bethel, Villegas and Hernandez before they decided to open Texas Wellness Clinic—where they continued to improperly bill Medicare. The owner of Campbell Medical Clinic, chiropractor Suhyun An, previously agreed to a $2.6 million settlement and a 10-year exclusion from federal health care programs. The claims resolved are allegations only, and there has not been an admission of wrongdoing. 

To date, this is the 11th case the Southern District of Texas has resolved for similar conduct. In addition to the settlement with An, the other matters included settlements with a Katy anesthesiologistHouston pain doctorRockport chiropractorLaredo pain doctorThe Woodlands pain doctorCypress marketing representativeOhio coding consultant, and two separate settlements (linked here and here) with Cypress podiatrists.     

The Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation.