Brazen

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Stethoscope on 100 dollar bills symbolizing financial surveillance

An Atlanta man has been sentenced to 11 years in federal prison for leading a fraud ring across the Southeast that netted $2.5 million in fraudulent Medicaid payments.

Prosecutors say Matthew Harrell, 44, was the brains behind a four-person criminal ring that stole Medicaid information on dependent children to file false claims. Harrell targeted low-income children, many in foster care, by stealing their Medicaid enrollment information from summer camp enrollment forms. (Adding worry for parents and guardians who fear sharing that info in the first place.)

Harrell owned and operated Revive Athletics in the Atlanta area and co-conspirator Andrea Lillie Barrett owned and operated Lillie Cares Health Services in southern Georgia. (You’ll come to see that Lillie does care, but mostly about herself.) The two, who were first charged with Medicaid and identity fraud in 2014, were accused of stealing $978,000 from the Georgia Medicaid system through fraudulent claims.

 “Harrell and his co-conspirators obtained Medicaid members’ numbers by stealing them from children’s summer and football camp registrations, from children placed in foster care, and from a stolen government document containing the numbers of 13,000 Louisiana Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients,” U.S. Attorney BJay Pak said.

Harrell shared the beneficiary numbers with Barrett so she could file fraudulent claims through her business, and then replicated the scheme to share with two others and expanded it to filings in Florida and Louisiana. (If it worked once, why not try it again and again in different places so it’s more difficult to track?)

Harrell, Barrett, and two other co-conspirators, Nikki Richardson and Tomeka Howard, owned several companies between them that claimed to provide mental health counseling and treatment. The four fraudulently obtained the Medicaid provider numbers of legitimate mental health service providers, including licensed social workers. The companies then used the identities of those providers to submit claims seeking Medicaid payment for mental health services.

Pak said Harrell tried to conceal the fraud by telling employees and contractors to create fake documents and forge provider signatures. While on pretrial release, Harrell opened a new company in Louisiana and continued to fraudulently bill Louisiana Medicaid until his bond was revoked and he was taken back into custody, Pak said. (Now that’s just brazen.)

Harrell pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and aggravated identity theft.  In addition to being sentenced to 11 years in federal prison, he was ordered to pay $2,543,629 in restitution.

Richardson, 44, was sentenced to three years and 11 months in prison and ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution. Howard, 44, pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud and aggravated identity theft charges and was sentenced to three years on probation. She was also ordered to pay $732,000 in restitution. Both are from Georgia. Barrett, of Virginia, was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Atlanta man sentenced to federal prison for $2 million Medicaid fraud scheme,” published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on March 11, 2020.

An Atlanta man has been sentenced to federal prison for stealing more than $2 million from Medicaid programs in three states.

Matthew Harrell, 44, was sentenced to 11 years to be followed by three years of supervised release, according to U.S. Attorney BJay Pak.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.