United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins
Western District of North Carolina
CHARLOTTE WOMAN PLEADS GUILTY TO SCHEME TO DEFRAUD MEDICAID AND MONEY LAUNDERING CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Joye Strong, 43, of Charlotte, pled guilty today to money laundering and defrauding Medicaid through her company, Advocating for America, LLC, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Joining U. S. Attorney Tompkins in making today’s announcement is Attorney General Roy Cooper, who oversees the North Carolina Medicaid Investigations Unit (MIU).
A criminal bill of information filed on September 30, 2011, charged Strong with eight counts of health care fraud and two counts of money laundering. According to the information, Strong’s company, Advocating for America, LLC (“AFA”), allegedly provided mental and behavioral services in the Charlotte area and elsewhere. In or about October 2008, AFA received endorsement to provide mental health Diagnostic Assessments and Intensive In-Home Community Intervention Services. Diagnostic Assessments are used to determine whether mental health services are warranted for an individual, and to initiate Intensive In-Home Community Intervention Services, if the assessment requires it. Medicaid regulations require Diagnostic Assessments and other qualification procedures to be performed by licensed or certified clinicians.
The bill of information alleges that in or about October 2008 to in or about May 2009, AFA was enrolled as a Community Intervention Services Agency with Medicaid. From in or about January 2009 to in or about May 2009, Strong engaged in a scheme to defraud Medicaid by filing fraudulent reimbursement claims for mental health services that were never provided by AFA. According to the bill of information, Strong submitted false and fraudulent claims through AFA for eight Medicaid recipients, based on falsified qualification documents that authorized the Medicaid recipients to receive Intensive In-Home Community Intervention Services by AFA. These fraudulent claims falsely listed R.G. and H.H. as the rendering licensed professionals, when, in fact, those professionals did not provide the claimed services. Strong misappropriated R.G.’s and H.H.’s identifying information through their applications for employment with AFA.
Strong’s scheme resulted in fraudulent payments from Medicaid to Strong and AFA in excess of $83,000. The bill of information further alleges that Strong then used the proceeds from her scheme to make a large cash withdrawal and to fund the purchase of a 2000 Mercedes. “This investigation and prosecution is another example of the great work that can be accomplished when federal, state and local law enforcement agencies work collaboratively,” U.S. Attorney Tompkins stated. “I am proud of the work being done by our Health Care Fraud Task Force and I am pleased to continue our longstanding partnership with the North Carolina Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Investigative Unit in helping to reduce the amount of waste, fraud and abuse of our nation’s healthcare system. Health care fraudsters should be warned that it is no longer business as usual in North Carolina.” “Illegal schemes like this rip off taxpayers and misuse money intended to help patients who need it. Our investigators and prosecutors will continue to work with our federal partners to crack down on Medicaid fraud and make the wrongdoers pay,” said N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper.
According to the plea agreement, Strong agreed that the intended loss to Medicaid was in excess $120,000 but less than $200,000. Strong, who has been released on bond, faces a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count of conviction. A sentencing date has not been set yet. The investigation and charges are the work of the Western District’s joint Health Care Fraud Task Force. The Task Force is multi-agency team of federal and state investigators and prosecutors who are dedicated to identifying and punishing those who defraud the health care system, and to reduce the potential for health care fraud in the future. The Task Force focuses on the coordination of cases, information sharing, identification of trends in health care fraud throughout the region, staffing of all whistle blower complaints, and the creation of investigative teams so that individual agencies may focus their unique areas of expertise on investigations. The Task Force builds upon existing partnerships between the agencies and its work reflects a heightened effort to reduce fraud and recover taxpayer dollars.
The investigation into Strong was led by MIU. The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Lansford and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelli H. Ferry of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.