It's a first. And the message is clear. Cameroon will not protect any of its failing citizens with U.S. justice. In the Republic of Cameroon's first extradition to the United States, a man was extradited to Houston, Texas last Friday to serve an 80-year prison sentence. He received the sentence in absentia four years ago after pleading guilty in two separate cases of conspiracy, health fraud, money laundering and tax offences.
According to court documents, in November 2016, Ebong Aloysius Tilong, 57, of Sugar Land, Texas, and his wife, Marie Neba, were tried on charges of conspiracy, health care fraud and money laundering. Trial evidence and court documents showed that between 2006 and 2015, Tilong, Neba and their co-conspirators used Tilong and Neba's company, Fiango Home Healthcare Inc. (Fiango), to illicitly obtain more than $13 million. They submitted false claims to Medicare for supposed home care services.
Trial evidence and court documents also showed that Tilong and Neba paid bribes to patient recruiters to send patients to them. Tilong also falsified and asked others to falsify medical records to make it appear that Fiango's patients qualified medicare for home care.
Other evidence has shown that Tilong attempted to destroy evidence, blackmail witnesses and force them to perjure themselves.
After the first week of trial, Tilong pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health fraud, three counts of health fraud, one count of conspiracy to offer and receive bribes in the health field, three counts of payment and receipt of bribes in the field of health, and one count of conspiracy to launder the currency.
In June 2017, Tilong pleaded guilty in a separate case to two counts of filing fraudulent tax returns. As part of that guilty plea, Tilong admitted to setting up a shell company called Quality Therapy Services (QTS) to limit the amount of tax he paid to the IRS on revenue he and his co-conspirators had stolen from Medicare.
According to Tilong's plea agreement, in 2013 and 2014, Tilong issued nearly $1 million in fiango checks to QTS for physiotherapy services that QTS never provided to Fiango patients and that it deducted as professional expenses. Tilong admitted that his tax evasion scheme caused the IRS a tax loss of about $344,452.
In August 2017, Neba was sentenced to 75 years in prison. The U.S. District Court scheduled Tilong's conviction for October 13, 2017, but court records show that on the morning of his sentencing hearing, Tilong removed an ankle location bracelet and did not respond to court phone calls and did not appear before him for his conviction. On December 8, 2017, the U.S. District Court sentenced Tilong in absentia to 80 years in prison for his role in the Medicare and tax fraud systems.
After Tilong's leak, the FBI Houston Field Office located Tilong in Cameroon, and worked in collaboration with the FBI's legal attaché in Abuja, Nigeria, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Fraud Section, and the Office of the President of the Republic of Cameroon to ensure Tilong's capture. Prior to his departure from Cameroon, Tilong was wanted by the FBI and was on HHS-OIG's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list. Cameroon's national police arrested Tilong in January 2019.
In September 2021, the President of the Republic of Cameroon, Paul Biya, signed an executive order ordering Tilong's return to the United States.
On December 10, 2021, U.S. marshals escorted Tilong from Cameroon to the United States.
The United States is grateful to the Government of Cameroon for its cooperation and support for this extradition request.
"Ebong Tilong's successful return demonstrates the department's commitment to working with our international partners to prosecute, capture and remove those who attempt to defraud the American people," said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. "Thanks to the efforts of our law enforcement partners and their counterparts in Cameroon, Ebong Tilong was returned to the United States and brought to justice."
"This successful extradition of Ebong Tilong to serve his 80-year prison sentence is an example of the FBI's collaboration with our federal and international partners that we hope will deter others from fleeing to avoid prosecution or punishment," said Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard A. Collodi from the local FBI office in Houston. "These partnerships underscore the FBI's reach and determination to prosecute actors wherever they are to deliver justice."
"Convicted fraudster and former fugitive Ebong Tilong has been brought to justice in our country, thanks to the tireless efforts of U.S. law enforcement, including our investigators," the special agent in charge of the investigation said.