former jasper county official pleads guilty to document fraud
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – David M. Ketchmark, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that the former public administrator of Jasper County, Mo., pleaded guilty in federal court today to document fraud, which was part of a scheme in which she illegally obtained federal benefits for her wards.
Rita Frances Hunter, 60, of Joplin, Mo., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. England to the charge of document fraud contained in a Dec. 14, 2011 federal indictment.
Hunter was the elected Public Administrator for Jasper County from Jan. 1, 2005, to Dec. 31, 2008.
By pleading guilty today, Hunter admitted that her scheme involved a total fraud of $70,000 to $120,000. Hunter directed her employees to submit materially false Medicaid applications for wards under the custody of the Public Administrator=s office. These applications falsely stated that the wards had assets below the $1,000 threshold to be eligible to receive Medicaid benefits, when in fact, the wards had more than $1,000 in assets.
Hunter specifically pleaded guilty to directing her staff to prepare a fraudulent Medicaid eligibility statement for a ward identified only as T.V. Hunter knew the statement, which was submitted to Missouri Health Net on Aug. 6, 2008, was contained false information. The written statement in the document indicated that T.V. had a total bank account balance of $827.27, when in fact, T.V. had funds totaling $6,919. This false statement was made on this document to ensure that T.V. would meet the monetary threshold (no more than $1,000) imposed by Medicaid, and was material to Medicaid’s determination that T.V. was eligible for Medicaid benefits.
Hunter caused this statement to be stamped with her signature verifying that it was true, when in fact it was false. Hunter instructed her employees to fabricate T.V.’s bank statements to ensure T.V. would qualify for Medicaid benefits, when she was, in fact, not eligible.
Under federal statutes, Hunter is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall D. Eggert. It was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Social Security Administration, the FBI, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Missouri Department of Social Services Legal Investigation Section.