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NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


JOHN F. WOOD


Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html


APRIL 15, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


JOPLIN RIVER OF LIFE, FAMILY MEMBERS INDICTED

FOR HEALTH CARE FRAUD, MONEY LAUNDERING


            SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a nonprofit agency operating five long-term residential care facilities in southwest Missouri, along with three family members involved in the agency, have been indicted by a federal grand jury for health care fraud and money laundering.


             Robert J. Dupont, Jr., 63, his wife, Laverne D. Dupont, 72, and his daughter, Kelley A. Wheeler, also known as Kelley Liveoak, 45, all of Joplin, Mo., along with Joplin River of Life, Inc., were charged in an 18-count superseding indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield on April 2, 2008. The superseding indictment, which has been unsealed and made public, replaces a federal indictment that was filed against Robert Dupont on Oct. 16, 2007, and includes additional defendants and charges.


             The federal indictment alleges that Robert Dupont, who was excluded from participating in any federal health care program as a result of a prior criminal conviction, nevertheless directed the operations of five long-term residential care facilities while he was in prison and after his release. Robert Dupont allegedly functioned as the ultimate decision-maker for Joplin River of Life, a nonprofit organization he founded shortly before serving his federal prison sentence. Laverne Dupont, who was ostensibly the executive director of Joplin River of Life, allegedly conspired with her husband to conceal his operation and control of the organization. The defendants also conspired to conceal the employment of Wheeler, who was excluded from receiving federal program payments to cover salary, expenses or fringe benefits because of her prior criminal conviction.


             Between Sept. 5, 2003, and Nov. 6, 2006, Joplin River of Life allegedly received approximately $725,125 in Medicaid funds that Robert Dupont controlled while he was excluded from participation in the Missouri Medicaid program. Between Aug. 20, 2004, and Oct. 5, 2006, Robert Dupont fraudulently received approximately $51,626 in wages paid by the Missouri Medicaid program to Joplin River of Life, the indictment says, although he was excluded from receiving such payments.


             From Aug. 20, 2003, to Dec. 6, 2004, Wheeler allegedly received approximately $33,075 in wages from Joplin River of Life that were fraudulently paid from the Missouri Medicaid program, when Wheeler was excluded from receiving such payments. Between Jan. 1, 2003, and Dec. 31, 2006, Laverne Dupont received approximately $170,000 in wages from Joplin River of Life.


             In addition to the conspiracy, Robert and Laverne Dupont and Joplin River of Life are charged with one count of health care fraud. The indictment alleges that the defendants executed a scheme to defraud the Missouri Medicaid program by concealing the fact that principals in the operation of Joplin River of Life had been convicted of an offense related to the operation of a long-term health care facility, and that principals in the operation of Joplin River of Life were excluded from participation in Medicare or Medicaid programs.


             The federal indictment also charges Robert Dupont, Kelley Wheeler and Joplin River of Life with participating in a money laundering conspiracy. From Feb. 13, 2002, to Sept. 20, 2007, the indictment alleges, they conspired to conduct financial transactions that involved the proceeds of health care fraud. The indictment alleges that those financial transactions were designed to conceal the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the proceeds of that unlawful activity.


             Robert Dupont is also charged with 15 counts of money laundering, relating to financial transactions that involved the proceeds of health care fraud, or that were conducted to promote the health care fraud or to conceal who was controlling the proceeds of the health care fraud.


             According to the indictment, Robert Dupont pleaded guilty on Feb. 13, 2002, to conspiring to defraud the Medicare and Medicaid federal health care programs. Wheeler was found guilty on June 28, 2002, of submitting false applications for Medicaid benefits. As a result of Robert Dupont’s conviction, he was excluded from participating in any federal health care program, including the Missouri Medicaid program. As a result of Wheeler’s conviction, she was excluded from receiving federal program payments to cover salary, expenses or fringe benefits.


             On March 5, 2002, the indictment says, Robert Dupont signed the articles of incorporation for Joplin River of Life, a not-for-profit corporation with himself and Laverne Dupont on the board of directors. On April 10, 2002, Robert Dupont leased the Anderson Guest House, Carl Junction Guest House, Guest House, Guest House II, and Guest House III facilities to Joplin River of Life, which was issued a state license to operate the facilities.


             On Sept. 11, 2002, Joplin River of Life established a new board of directors, which did not include Robert Dupont. Annual registration reports that were submitted to the Missouri Secretary of State from 2003 to 2006 do not list Robert Dupont as an officer or a member of the board of directors. In submitting the required applications and documentation to the state Division of Medical Services in order to receive Medicaid funding, Joplin River of Life fraudulently affirmed that no operator or principal of Joplin River of Life had been convicted of a felony relating to the operation of a long-term care facility, or was under exclusion from participation in the Medicaid program.


             On Feb. 21, 2003, Robert Dupont was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and Wheeler was sentenced to six months in federal prison. Before surrendering himself to begin serving that sentence, Robert Dupont convened and oversaw a Joplin River of Life board meeting on March 19, 2003, in which he announced that Laverne Dupont would become the executive director of the organization. But in the day-to-day operation of Joplin River of Life, the indictment says, Robert Dupont made unilateral hiring decisions, terminated employees, directed staffing levels, unilaterally decided whether to accept potential residents referred by local hospitals, prohibited facility managers from seeking authority from Laverne Dupont, and threatened to terminate employees who failed to seek his authorization for decisions.


             On Sept. 28, 2004, Robert Dupont was released into the community and placed on supervised release for three years.


            Wood cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.


            This case is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Oliver. It was investigated by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Missouri State Fire Marshal and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.


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This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html