Thursday, July 13, 2017
Ten Minnesota Cases Part of National Health Care Fraud Takedown
Attorney General Swanson Charges Mother-Daughter Duo
with Bilking Medical Assistance of $900,000
Earlier This Week, Attorney General Brought Charges Against Mother’s Cousin
In $7.7 Million Fraud Scheme
As part of the National Health Care Fraud Takedown announced this morning in Washington, D.C., Attorney General Lori Swanson today filed a 10-count criminal complaint against a Brooklyn Center woman and her daughter for allegedly bilking Medical Assistance of over $900,000 in connection with their home health care agency, Your Way Home Care, Inc. The complaints allege that the women submitted claims for personal care assistant services not rendered, used care providers’ identities to submit false claims without their permission, and paid unlawful kickbacks to induce recipients to become and remain clients of the agency.
Earlier this week, the Attorney General charged the woman’s cousin, Lillian Carletta Richardson, and six of her accomplices, in a $7.7 million criminal enterprise involving personal care services unlawfully billed to Medical Assistance, bringing to ten the total number of Minnesota cases that are part of the National Health Care Fraud Takedown. The ten cases—which involved 40 search warrants—total approximately $8.6 million in charges to Medical Assistance.
Minnesota is one of over 20 states participating with the federal government in the National Health Care Fraud Takedown, which federal officials are calling the nation’s largest single health care fraud sweep, involving over 400 charges, estimated at over $1 billion.
“Medical Assistance provides an important health care safety net, and it is an affront to taxpayers when agencies bilk the system for their own financial gain,” said Attorney General Swanson.
Medical Assistance is funded by taxpayers in part to provide personal care assistance to low-income patients in their homes.
The Your Way Home Care, Inc. Scheme
Today’s charges were filed against Juanita Yvette Swain (DOB: 06/14/63), of Brooklyn Center, and her daughter Aretina Tiaira Williams (DOB: 07/29/1983), of Brooklyn Park, in connection with Your Way Home Care, Inc., a home health care agency that they co-owned. The complaint alleges that they fraudulently billed Medical Assistance about $929,000.
According to the Complaint, Swain and Williams defrauded Medical Assistance by: 1) billing for personal care services that were not rendered or not provided in accordance with Minnesota law; 2) using individuals’ identities without their permission to submit false claims; and 3) paying kickbacks to induce recipients to allow the agency to bill for services. Allegations in the Complaint include:
- Your Way billed over $200,000 for personal care attendant services for a mother and her three children that were not provided and paid kickbacks to the mother, who was a friend of Williams, to induce her cooperation in the scheme. In one text message about the kickbacks, Williams told the woman, “Christmas came early.”
- Your Way billed for personal care attendant services provided by a man who said he never worked for the agency but had completed an application to work there before he moved out-of-state. Some of the services billed in his name were for home health care services were supposedly delivered to a man who was incarcerated at the time.
- Your Way billed $56,000 for personal care attendant services allegedly provided to two minor children of a friend of Williams by a man who was living in Illinois and stated he did not provide the services.
A number of supposed clients of the agency were friends or family members of the two women.
The complaints also describe text messages between Williams and care providers and supposed patients of the agency in which Williams asked for or was told about the availability of illegal prescription opioid painkillers for sale on the black market. For example, Williams sent a text to a personal care attendant while she supposedly was caring for a patient asking where to buy illegal street drugs.
Also charged today in the Your Way fraud scheme was Williams’ father, Michael Carson (DOB: 06/25/1960), of Park Forest, Illinois. The Complaint alleges that Carson, while residing in Illinois, acted as a “front” to enable Williams to open a new home health care agency after Your Way Home Health Care’s authority to file claims was suspended by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
The Lillian Richardson Enterprise
Earlier this week, the Attorney General filed a nine-count criminal Complaint against Swain’s cousin, Lillian Richardson, an Arkansas woman, and six accomplices, alleging they engaged in a criminal enterprise to defraud the taxpayer-funded Medical Assistance program of about $7.7 million.
Richardson (DOB 10/7/1964) was prosecuted and convicted of Medical Assistance Fraud in 2012 and banned from any participation in Medical Assistance for five years. At the time, she told the Court: “[T]his has been a lesson[,] a lesson that I do not have to go through again.”
To hide her involvement in the new fraud scheme, Richardson enlisted family members and associates to open and act as “fronts” for five new home health care agencies with which she remained involved behind the scenes.
The five agencies involved in the billing scheme described in the Richardson Complaint are: Abundant Hands Home Care, LLC (“Abundant”); Bridging Together, LLC (“Bridging”); Caring for Angels, LLC (“Caring”); Healing Hands Home Care, LLC (“Healing”); and Universal Home Health Care, LLC (“Universal”).
In addition to unlawfully acting as a front for Richardson, the agencies billed Medical Assistance for services that were not rendered. Examples in the Complaint include:
- In 2015 and 2016, Bridging was paid over $54,000 by submitting personal care assistance services under the name of a man who told state investigators he has lived in Dayton, Ohio since 2000, and had never heard of Bridging or worked as a personal care assistant.
- Caring was paid $43,000 for personal care services submitted under the billing number of Richardson’s daughter-in-law, for services allegedly provided in Minnesota to Richardson’s ex-husband and former sister-in-law, among others. The Complaint alleges the daughter-in-law did not provide the services, as she was living in Illinois.
- Richardson’s aunt, who was billed as providing personal care services to Richardson’s ex-husband, daughter, and grandson (among others), told investigators she did not actually provide the services to many of the recipients and that she signed timesheets for services she did not complete.
According to the Complaint, Richardson, who was barred from involvement with the agencies, unlawfully assisted in their provider enrollment, management, and billing. The operations of much of the five agencies were interwoven, including overlapping personal care assistants, nurses, office employees, and recipients. Many of the patients and care attendants involved in the billing schemes were friends or family members of Richardson or her accomplices.
The Attorney General’s investigation uncovered evidence showing Richardson’s concealment of her involvement, including, for example, a text message in which Richardson instructed one of her accomplices to:
The other defendants charged this week were:
- Bridgett Burrell (DOB 11/20/1966) of Maple Grove, Richardson’s sister
- Cherise Henry (DOB 10/28/1968) of Brooklyn Park, Richardson’s sister
- Lasania Oda (DOB 6/22/1980) of Phoenix, Arizona, Richardson’s daughter
- Deanna Williams (DOB 6/1/1964) of Brooklyn Park, Richardson’s sister-in-law
- Nicole Schwab (DOB 3/6/1989) of New Hope, Richardson’s associate
- Tonette Brackins (DOB 8/21/1985) of West Fargo, North Dakota, Richardson’s associate
Each defendant is charged with multiple counts of felony theft by swindle and felony racketeering.
Richardson is currently serving time in Shakopee prison for violating the terms of her probation in connection with her prior criminal conviction. According to the Complaint, during a January 2017 search warrant at her residence, Richardson barricaded her Arkansas home and destroyed evidence during the 45 minutes it took to gain entry.