COLUMBIA - A man accused of stealing a South Carolina physician's identity and treating hundreds of patients, by doing checkups and prescribing drugs, pleaded guilty Tuesday.
Ernest Osei Addo, 51, stole the identity of a friend who was a doctor and worked for several medical clinics before his scheme was uncovered, authorities said. Police believe Addo, who was heavily in debt, was motivated by money.
Addo, dressed in a red jail uniform, pleaded guilty to using someone else's identity to commit health care fraud. He faces two years in prison and $250,000 in fines when he is sentenced in June.
He also faces state charges of practicing medicine without a license and illegally distributing controlled substances. His attorneys declined to comment.
Addo met Dr. Arthur Kennedy, of Orangeburg, at a political rally in Ghana, where both were born, according to federal authorities. In court Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney DeWayne Pearson said the men planned to open a medical clinic in the United States.
Kennedy gave Addo documentation of his own medical training but remained in Ghana to teach. Using Kennedy's information, prosecutors said Addo obtained a South Carolina driver's license and created an online profile with a physician employment agency, which placed him for a short time at a job in Greenwood. Addo also later worked for a facility operated by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health before being matched with Agape Senior Primary Care.
Addo attended medical school in Belize, but Pearson said that authorities could not independently confirm he had passed medical board examinations there.
For about six months, Addo saw patients at several Agape facilities in the Columbia area, performing the sort of exams someone might get during a visit to a family doctor. Authorities have also said he wrote some prescriptions, including some for himself. Addo faces no charges of physically harming any patients.
Pearson said authorities were notified in 2012 after Kennedy's wife received a statement for a credit card that had been opened in her husband's name. She confronted Addo, who admitted he had stolen the doctor's identity.
Part of the fraud allegations relate to Medicaid and Medicare billings that Agape submitted for patients treated by Addo, Pearson said. In all, the agencies paid out $400,000 in those cases, he said.
When Addo was arrested, Sheriff James Metts said his crimes appeared to be motivated by greed. In the past 20 years, at least two dozen liens have been filed against Addo for around $200,000, including unpaid rent, credit card bills, student loans and taxes, according to records obtained by The Associated Press. He has declared bankruptcy twice.
Kinnard can be reached on Twitter @MegKinnardAP.