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Fourteen more people in Southern Illinois charged with Medicaid Fraud

Fourteen more people in Southern Illinois charged with Medicaid Fraud

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Fourteen people in Southern Illinois were charged today with defrauding the Medicaid home services program in Illinois by claiming money they were not owed.

U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton of the Southern District of Illinois announced the indictments today. As a result of ongoing investigations, both personal care assistants and Medicaid recipients were found to have committed fraud.

In one case, a personal assistant claimed to be providing personal assistant services to her boyfriend while she was in jail and prison. Together, they claimed over 1,000 hours of personal assistant services during the periods where she was in prison. In another, a personal assistant claimed that she performed over 450 hours of personal assistant services during times that she was employed at a full time job and over 140 hours where she was working at another location and the client was also receiving kidney dialysis.

The home services program allows people with disabilities to hire assistants to perform household tasks and help with personal care. Time sheets filed twice a month are submitted for payments. The program is intended for recipients under age 60 and is designed to reduce Medicaid expenditures by avoiding more expensive institutional care, including nursing home care.

This is the third wave of charges arising from the investigations. The Southern Illinois residents charged today, their ages, and their last known cities of residence are:

Connie D. Evans, 50, Belleville; Quincy O. Gamble, 39, Cahokia; Jody R. Wooters, 46, Centralia; Felicia M. Gibson, 47, East St. Louis; Beatrice L. Randall, 59, East St. Louis; Charlietta M. Lee, 51, Marion; Tamekia L. Hall, 39, East St. Louis; Maurice L. Burks, 43, East St. Louis; Christopher W. Spivey, 30, Olney; Angel D. Jones, 50, Collinsville; Lawrence M. Thigpen, 53, Collinsville; Lakeshia W. White, 23, Centreville; Margaret R. Teriet, 31, Mount Vernon; Maketa N. Davis, age 33, East St. Louis.

During the first two phases of the investigation, called Operation Home Alone, 29 defendants were charged with fraud. The 14 charged today increases the number to 43.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and up to 3 years of supervised release.

"Many of these individuals just don’t get it - they either don’t care or don’t believe me when I say we will continue to investigate and root out those defrauding the program," said U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton in a statement.

"Federal and state law enforcement in Illinois have spoken forcefully and with one voice against the abuse of a program vital to the health of Illinoisans, but those who are abusing this needed program just don't seem to be listening. Ignore us at your peril, Wigginton added.

In the statement, Special Agent in Charge Gerald Roy said: "We will continue to investigate these cases and submit them for prosecution until this widespread abuse stops."

In the statement, officials added that the people charged "take money from the thousands of deserving customers and harm the reputation of those personal assistants who are doing everything right.

"We have seen dozens of instances in which the State of Illinois paid for ghost employees and fictitious services."

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Margaret S. Gillerman is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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