former jasper county official sentenced for document fraud
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that the former public administrator of Jasper County, Mo., was sentenced in federal court today for document fraud, which was part of a scheme in which she illegally obtained federal benefits for her public wards.
Rita Frances Hunter, 60, of Joplin, Mo., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple to 12 months and a day in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Hunter to pay $120,000 in restitution to the Department of Health and Human Services. Hunter must report on Aug. 1, 2013 to begin serving her prison sentence.
“This elected official betrayed the public trust and defrauded the government,” Dickinson said. “The citizens of Jasper County deserve to have honest public servants who fulfill their civic obligations lawfully, and in this case, they deserved better.”
Hunter, who pleaded guilty to document fraud on Nov. 6, 2012, was the elected Public Administrator for Jasper County from Jan. 1, 2005, to Dec. 31, 2008.
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 of the state who were 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, 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.
The court also considered additional criminal conduct in which Hunter engaged in calculating today’s sentence.
This case was 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.
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