Nigerian scammers in Houston bilk Medicare out of $45 million

Authorities extradite conspirator from Lagos to Texas

By Nicholas Nehamas

In today’s globalized world, news doesn’t stop at the border. Every Monday morning, Latitude News brings you stories from local papers that show how closely America is connected to the rest of the world. What happens in Lagos can change your life in Houston.

Godwin Nzeocha was arrested in Nigeria after participating in a Medicare scam in Houston. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

1) A group of Nigerian and American scammers has allegedly bilked Medicare out of $45 million. Nine employees of City Nursing in Houston have been arrested for paying patients to file fake reimbursement claims for medical treatment never actually delivered. American authorities recently secured the extradition of one of the conspirators, Godwin Chiedo Nzeocha, a fugitive who fled Houston for Nigeria. (Houston Chronicle)

2) The Malaysian casino giant Genting has scaled back its plans for a $3 billion gambling resort in Miami with 5,200 rooms. The state legislature voted against the company’s downtown project six months ago. “They were bullies who thought they could buy their way in,” said one analyst. Now Genting is trying again in Florida with a smaller proposal for a 500-room hotel/casino, and also looking to expand its brand in New York, Massachusetts, Australia and the Bahamas. (Miami Herald)

3) An editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette chastises Senate Republicans for refusing to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty. The agreement was designed to help spur multinational cooperation on issues pertaining to international waters, like fishing and Arctic mining. So far 161 countries and the European Union have signed the treaty. The U.S., Libya and North Korea are among those who oppose it. Republicans say the deal will “undercut” American sovereignty. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

4) The University of Florida marching band is going to the Olympics. The U.S. Embassy in London, whose deputy chief of mission is a three-time U.F. grad, helped the band arrange their trip. They are the only American band invited to perform at the Olympics. The university contributed $100,000 to the expedition but the overall price tag of $1 million meant students had to pay their own way or seek charitable contributions. About 2/3 of the band were able to raise the required funds. (Gainesville Sun)

5) A fisherman in Illinois has pulled a bizarre piranha-relative out of Lou Yaegar Lake. The pacu, originally from the Amazon Basin, has human-like teeth and is known in Papua New Guinea as a “ball-cutter” for its unfortunate habit of chomping down on the testicles of unsuspecting victims. It’s not clear how the pacu got into the lake but the aquatic creatures, which can weigh up to 55 pounds, are popular as pets. Dumping them into the wild is a crime. (Houston Chronicle)