Palos Hills man sentenced to 10 years in prison for Medicare fraud

By Laura Bollin

A Palos Hills man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in defrauding Medicare of more than $2.9 million.

Bahir Haj Khalil, the executive manager and co-owner of House Call Physicians, LLC in Palos Hills allegedly submitted tens of thousands of false claims annually that misrepresented medical services provided to people, according to Gary S. Shapiro, the acting attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice's Northern District of Illinois. Khalil opened House Call Physicians, LLC in 2006.

Khalil, 34, was charged with six counts of health care fraud. He and his business partner, Mohammed Khamis Rashed, 46, of Chicago, were also convicted of one count each of visa fraud for attempting to illegally obtain a work visa for Khalil. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras in federal court in Chicago Dec. 20. Khalil was also ordered to pay $2.9 million in restitution and forfeiture. The forfeiture includes $155,175 that was seized when he was arrested. Khalil, a native of Syria and a Canadian citizen who was not authorized to work in the United States, has remained in federal custody since he was arrested in July 2011 and House Call Physicians, LLC was closed. He will be subject to deportation after completing his sentence.

Rashed, a former engineer for the City of Chicago who invested in House Call Physicians, LLC and was a co-owner was sentenced to six months in prison and fined $20,000 on Dec. 20.

A third man, Paschal U. Oparah, 47, of South Holland, a suspended podiatrist who pleaded guilty to health care fraud in April 2011 and cooperated with the government's investigation, was sentenced Dec. 12 to 18 months in prison and was ordered to pay $791,095 in restitution.

"I want the word to go forth from this sentence that this kind of crime does not pay and will be treated harshly," Kocoras said. Kocoras imposed the maximum sentence of 10 years on each of the seven counts and ordered them to be served concurrently, according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to trial evidence and court records, the fraud scheme involved billing for services that were not medically necessary, including uncomfortable nerve conduction tests, services purportedly provided by physicians when they were performed by physician assistants, and services said to be performed by a licensed podiatrist when instead they were provided by Oparah, whose license was suspended.

"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," said assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick Otlewski and Ryan Hedges at the sentencing.

"To Khalil, the math was simple: Find people on Medicare, perform unnecessary tests and services, bill Medicare, get paid."