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Wheelchair bait-and-switch brings seven-year sentence

A Florida man is headed to federal prison for more than seven years for running a bait-and-switch operation that advertised power scooters for Medicare patients.  Instead of the jaunty power scooters they saw on television ads, the victims were stuck with bulky power wheelchairs, and the government was stuck with thousands more in costs.

When arrested in 2007, Michael Cowen was living in an exclusive gated condo community in Boca Raton, Fla.  In federal court in Lynchburg today, Cowen learned he’ll spend 92 months in prison.

In a news release, prosecutors say Cowen headed an operation that bought TV ads nationwide showing senior citizens zipping around on lightweight power scooters.  When customers called, however, telemarketers were trained to sell something called a “power chair scooter.”  Then, when delivery people showed up with heavy wheelchairs instead of the expected scooters, they sometimes demanded hundreds in illegal “restocking fees” if customers balked.

Cowen’s company, Active Solutions, reportedly submitted claims to Medicare for 3,100 power wheelchairs at $5,000 to $8,000 apiece.

By Peter Vieth

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