A doctor who was tried and convicted on charges on fraud charges in a health care prosecution will serve less time in prison than he initially thought.
The doctor, Ehigiator Akhigbe, charged in Washington federal district court, will serve 33 months behind bars, not 53 months, which was the original sentenced imposed in the case.
Over the summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated the 53-month sentence, saying the trial judge, Sterling Johnson Jr., visiting from Brooklyn federal district court, did not satisfactorily explain why he tacked on a year above the top of the advisory guideline range.
The range was 33 months to 41 months. In his ruling, Johnson said a sentence above the guidelines will promote respect for the law. The appeals court said Johnson’s oral and written justification was “clearly insufficient.”
Akhigbe’s lawyers, including Veronica Jennings of Washington’s Schertler & Onorato, had asked Johnson to impose a 33-month sentence. Akhigbe, 58, has already spent more than a year in federal prison.
Jennings told Johnson that 33 months is sufficient punishment and that Akhigbe has already demonstrated a commitment to rehabilitation.
“We are extremely gratified that Judge Johnson granted our client a 20 month reduction in his sentence,” Jennings said in an e-mail. “We believe the court's decision appropriately considered a number of mitigating factors that supported such a substantial reduction.”
Akhigbe submitted false claims to Amerigroup Corp., which had a contract with the D.C. Medicaid program to provide health services to low-income residents here.
An assistant U.S. attorney, Lionel Andre, wanted Akhigbe sentenced at the high end of the advisory guidelines.
Akhigbe’s conduct, Andre said in court papers, “involved continued and deliberate abuse of the public trust by repeatedly gaming the D.C. Medicaid system to personally enrich himself.”
Andre said Akhigbe “personally prepared and submitted hundreds of false Medicaid claims over a number of years for medical services that he never performed” on patients. The prosecutor said Akhigbe was more concerned about profit than taking care of the needs of his patients.
At the time of the original sentencing, U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. heralded the 53-month sentence, saying "it sends a clear message to those who abuse the health care system that the price they pay for their fraudulent conduct may be the loss of their liberty for an extended period of time."