McALLEN A co-owner and manager of a McAllen-area durable medical equipment (DME) business have been indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, multiple counts of health care fraud and aggravated identity theft for their alleged roles in a scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid through fraudulent billings for power wheelchairs, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced Wednesday. Both were arrested approximately an hour and a half ago without incident.

Velma Alaniz, an owner of Ace Medical Equipment and Supplies, and Valente Alaniz, Ace Medical's manager, both of Palmview, Texas, were named in a nine-count federal indictment returned under seal on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. The indictment was unsealed today after both defendants, who are siblings, were taken into custody by federal agents. Both are expected to make their initial appearance in federal court this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby.

According to the indictment, from July 2008 through June 2010, the defendants allegedly directed a scheme to submit thousands of dollars in false and fraudulent claims to the Medicare and Medicaid programs related to Ace Medical's purported sale of power wheelchairs to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

The indictment alleges that the defendants would represent to Medicare and Medicaid in each claim submitted for a power wheelchair that the item was (1) medically necessary and prescribed by the beneficiary's physician; and (2) had been delivered to the beneficiary when, in fact, the defendants knew at the time of the claims that these representations were false with respect to numerous claims. In other instances, the defendants would submit false claims to Medicare and Medicaid by representing that power wheelchairs had been delivered to beneficiaries, when, instead, they would deliver less expensive mobility scooters to the beneficiaries.

In an attempt to conceal the fraudulent claims, the indictment alleges that the defendants falsified and forged physicians' medical orders and examination reports, as well as a variety of other Medicare and Medicaid-related documents that were kept in the beneficiaries' files.

Conspiracy to commit health care fraud and each count of health care fraud carries a maximum punishment of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole and a $250,000 fine upon conviction. Each count of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two-year prison term which must be served consecutive to any prison sentence imposed on the underlying charges.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Secret Service and the Texas Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Greg Saikin is prosecuting the case.