A former pastor was sentenced on Thursday for his role in a scheme that defrauded Medicare out of more than $11 million, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reports.

Charles Agbu of Carson, California, also the owner of a Los-Angeles-area medical supply company, pled guilty to conspiracy and money laundering charges for his role in a power wheelchair fraud scheme. Agbu was the owner and operator of Bonfee Inc., a fraudulent medical equipment supply company. Agbu’s daughter and other members of his family were also part of the company’s operation.

Agbu admitted to paying doctors and patient recruiters to provide him with phony prescriptions for expensive power wheelchairs and other durable medical equipment that he and his family members used to submit more than $11 million in false claims to Medicare. According to the DOJ, Agbu billed the wheelchairs at a rate of about $6,000 per chair, while paying only $900 wholesale for each one.

Many of the Medicare beneficiaries to whom Bonfee Inc. claimed to supply the wheelchairs and medical devices did not have any legitimate need for the medical equipment. In some cases, Medicare beneficiaries never received the medical equipment from Agbu’s company.

While running his fraudulent medical equipment operation, Agbu was also a Pastor at the Pilgrim Congregational Church in Los Angeles.

He was sentenced to serve 87 months in prison and ordered to pay $5,788,725 in restitution to Medicare. His daughter, Obiageli Agbu, was convicted on nine counts of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Her sentencing date has not yet been determined.

The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which is part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT). Since March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged over 1,500 defendants who, collectively, defrauded the Medicare program of more than $5 billion.

“The False Claims Act and the efforts of the HEAT task force work to protect the American taxpayers from fraudulent claims. Sadly, Medicare fraud is a constant problem and it is often only thanks to the brave efforts of whistleblowers that the fraudulent practices of these facilities are exposed,” commented Christopher Paulos, an attorney with the Levin, Papantonio law firm, who works in the areas of qui tam and false claims litigation.

Alisha is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.