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10 Years for O.C. Medicare Scammer

Times Staff Writer

A Huntington Beach man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $6 million in restitution for a Medicare billing scam in which unneeded motorized wheelchairs and other items were prescribed for patients.

Prosecutors said that Phu Luong, 51, used the money he netted to buy a boat, expensive cars and a waterfront home, and pay off Las Vegas gambling debts.

Luong, who owned United Medical Supply in Huntington Beach, was convicted in April of 35 counts of healthcare fraud and five counts of money laundering.

He was sentenced Monday in federal court in Santa Ana.

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Luong was among 10 people indicted in March 2005 for allegedly billing Medicare $24 million for unnecessary items, of which the agency paid about $14 million.

The defendants, most of whom worked for Luong, are accused of persuading Medicare beneficiaries in the Korean and Vietnamese communities to visit doctors with promises of free “milk” and wheelchairs.

Once there, officials said, they would get prescriptions for unneeded products -- mostly liquid nutrition supplements and motorized wheelchairs.

The company would then bill Medicare for the items.

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Officials said Luong used the money to buy a $185,000 boat, a $118,000 Rolls Royce and a $170,000 Lamborghini, and to put a $1.7- million down payment on a Huntington Beach mansion and settle $120,000 in gambling debts with the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Four defendants have pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud.

Other defendants awaiting sentencing include Sareth That, 56, of Long Beach; Mo Thi Pham, 50, of Westminster; and Peter Kim, 82, of Los Angeles.

Derrick Hubbard, 46, a Los Angeles doctor who fled to South Africa and was extradited, is awaiting trial.

Matthew Khatibloo, 72, a Fullerton doctor, fled to Iran and remains a fugitive.


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