Fil Am Accused Of Medicare Fraud Gets Probation; Another Dies While Case Is Pending

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – A former owner of a Chicago-area home health care business who would later become an employee of another home health care business was sentenced to a ten-month probation after pleading guilty to one of two counts of paying $500 kickback to anybody or any company owner, who would refer an elderly patient to her employer.

United States District Judge Ruben Castillo of the Northern Illinois in Chicago also ordered Alona Bugayong, 38, of Lincolnwood, Illinois and originally from Palawan in the Philippines, to pay an assessment fee of $100.

Ms. Bugayong’s employer, Han Woo, also 38, who owns New Covenant Home Health Agency LLC and Healthquest Homecare LLC, was given a stiffer sentence of two years probation; to perform 100 hours of community service and to pay $10,000 fine and $100 assessment fee after pleading guilty to two counts of Medicare fraud (Title 18, USC, Sec. 371).

Ms. Bugayong’s Filipino American lawyer, Jun Joaquin, said, “I was able to have one count dismissed under Stark Law. Alona could have been sentenced to five years and a fine of $25,000.”

INDELIBLE STIGMA

Mr. Joaquin added in his closing statements to Judge Castillo that Alona is a very close family friend; has no prior arrest or conviction; a graduate of a four-year Theology program leading to a doctorate in Theology; a composer and singer of religious songs.

He said an imprisonment would leave an “indelible stigma upon her godly inclination to finish her doctorate degree in Theology.” He asked the judge to extend to her “reconciliation with compassionate and forgiving society tempered with justice and mercy. For the first time I shed tears in open court, before the presiding judge and my client, too. Instead of 364 days for probation, Alona was given a 10-month probation and a $100-mandatory fee. It was lower than what I asked for. Another justice was done.”

Ms. Bugayong and Mr. Woo, initially involved in a conspiracy to commit Medicare fraud from November 2009 up to January 2010, were among the Chicago-area 14 defendants charged separately in unrelated federal health care fraud cases last year.

They were part of a nationwide takedown by Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations that led to charges against 111 defendants for their alleged participation in numerous Medicare fraud schemes.

Another case involving a Filipino American, Merigrace Orillo, 45, of Elmhurst, Illinois, who owns and operates Chalice Home Healthcare Services, Inc. in Chicago, Freeport and Morris, Illinois, is still pending before U.S. District Court Judge Frederick J. Kapala.

Judge Kapala, however, dismissed the case against Merigrace’s co-accused, her husband, Virgilio Orillo, 69, who died while the case is pending.

DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE

The Orillos were indicted for allegedly falsifying documents in order to increase payments to Chalice Home Healthcare that cost Medicare program more than $500,000 in losses. Chalice nurses, nurse aides, physical therapists, and occupational therapists provide services to patients in their homes.

Mrs. Orillo posted her home’s $265,000 equity as surety bond when she traveled to the Philippines to attend the funeral of her husband.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Cole dismissed without prejudice charges of conspiracy to violate federal anti-kickback statute by agreeing to offer or pay or to solicit or receive kickbacks for the referral of Medicare patients for home health care services against five individuals associated with Goodwill Home Healthcare, Inc. (“Goodwill”) in Chicago.

Dismissal without prejudice means the case can still be revived.

Among those discharged from the case were Marilyn Maravilla, a nurse, who became the controlling owner of Goodwill, Junjee L. Arroyo, Ferdinand Echavia, Kennedy Lomillo and Baltazar S. Alberto.

The $50,000 bond of Ms. Maravilla was secured by her home located at 6119 North Lowell Avenue in Chicago that is also listed under the name of her husband, Bede Maravilla. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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