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Ga man pleads guilty to multi-state health care fraud conspiracy

“His fraud is particularly egregious because he replicated his fraud scheme in several states and continued stealing funds after he was released on bond.”

Matthew Harrell has pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud and aggravated identity theft charges related to fraudulent claims filed with the Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana Medicaid programs.

“Harrell exploited the Medicaid system and stole funds to be used for mental health treatment,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “His fraud is particularly egregious because he replicated his fraud scheme in several states and continued stealing funds after he was released on bond.”

“Whenever someone fraudulently steals funding from federal programs like Medicaid they are not only stealing from the people who deserve it, but also from every American taxpayer,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Harrell and his co-conspirators will now have to pay for their own personal greed.”

“Medical identity theft from providers as well as patients in this case cost taxpayers millions of dollars,” said Derrick Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  “We will continue working closely with our State and Federal law enforcement partners to protect our vital government healthcare programs.”

“This guilty plea is part of a years-long effort to uncover and prosecute a group of criminals who were willing to lie, cheat and steal at the expense our state’s youth and taxpayer dollars in Georgia, Florida and Louisiana,” said Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. “Our Medicaid Fraud Division’s investigators and prosecutors proudly assisted in this effort along with our counterparts in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and in Florida, and we will continued this spirit of collaboration to protect the interests of our citizens.”

“This fraudster deployed a scheme to steal the identities of children to defraud Florida and other states’ Medicaid programs out of millions. As a mother, I am especially outraged that this man targeted children, stealing information from summer and football camp registrations, but I am proud of our investigators working with other state Medicaid fraud units and federal authorities to stop the identity theft, protect our Medicaid program and secure a guilty plea for the architect of this nefarious scheme,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

“Medicaid welfare fraud not only steals from taxpayers, it also jeopardizes much-needed services for our most vulnerable citizens. The Louisiana Department of Justice and I will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to uncover, investigate, and arrest criminals who defraud Medicaid,” said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: Harrell and co-conspirators owned or worked with companies that purportedly provided mental health counseling and treatment to children and adults. These companies included, Revive Athletics, Inc., R.A. Florida, Inc., Jode Counseling Treatment and Training Services, LLC, 118 Management and Consulting, Inc. and A Brighter Day, LLC. These companies billed over $3.7 million in Medicaid claims, and received approximately $2.5 million based on fraudulent billing.

According to the indictment, Harrell and co-conspirators fraudulently used or stole the Medicaid provider numbers of mental health service providers, including a psychologist and licensed clinical social workers, in Georgia and Florida. Harrell’s companies and related entities then used these identities to submit fraudulent Medicaid claims seeking payment for mental health services that were never provided. The Medicaid member numbers, many of which were assigned to children, were obtained from: summer and football camp registrations; a stolen government document which identified approximately 13,000 Louisiana Temporary Assistance for Needed Families (TANF) recipients; and children who were placed in foster care.

Harrell attempted to conceal the fraud scheme by directing employees and contractors to create fraudulent documentation and forge provider signatures to support the fraudulent billing. Harrell initially started the fraudulent billing scheme in Georgia and replicated the scheme in Florida and then Louisiana before his arrest. While on pretrial release in this case, Harrell opened a new company in Louisiana and continued to fraudulently bill Louisiana Medicaid until his bond was revoked and he was detained pending trial.

Sentencing for Matthew Harrell, 44, of Atlanta, Georgia, Harrell is schedule for March 9, 2020 at 2:30 p.m., before U.S. District Court Judge Steve C. Jones.

Co-defendants Nikki Richardson, 44, of Fairburn, Georgia, and Tomeka Howard, 44, of Decatur, Georgia, pleaded guilty previously to healthcare fraud and aggravated identity charges. On May 30, 2019, Richardson was sentenced to five years and five months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,719,189.00. On the same day, Tomeka Howard was sentenced to three years’ probation, with 18 months of home confinement and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $732,189.00.

The Georgia State Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Medicaid Fraud Control Units for Florida and Louisiana are investigating this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Brown, Deputy Chief of the Complex Frauds Section, is prosecuting the case. Georgia Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Grofic also assisted with the prosecution.

This is a press release from the US Department of Justice. 

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