Asheville, North Carolina, Resident Pleads Guilty to Participating in $63 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme
WASHINGTON – An Asheville, N.C., resident pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Miami for her role in a health care fraud scheme that resulted in the submission of more than $63 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid in Miami and Hendersonville, N.C., announced the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Serena Joslin, 31, a Licensed Psychological Associate, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in Miami to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Joslin admitted to participating in a fraud scheme that was orchestrated through an entity called Health Care Solutions Network (HCSN). HCSN operated purported partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), a form of intensive mental health treatment for severe mental illness, in both Miami and Hendersonville.
According to an indictment unsealed on May 2, 2012, HCSN obtained Medicare beneficiaries to attend HCSN for purported PHP treatment that was unnecessary and, in many instances, not provided. HCSN obtained those beneficiaries by paying kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities (ALFs) or by otherwise recruiting them from ALFs and nursing homes. According to court documents, Joslin admitted that she was aware that HCSN recruited patients who were inappropriate for PHP treatment. Nevertheless, Joslin agreed with other HCSN employees to, among other things, fabricate therapy notes and other medical records, and to direct therapists to fabricate therapy notes and other medical records, all to make it appear as if HCSN patients received appropriate PHP services. Joslin was aware that fraudulent claims to Medicare would be submitted on behalf of these patients.
At sentencing, scheduled for Jan. 11, 2013, Joslin faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Eight other charged defendants, including the owner and operators of HCSN, await trial before Judge Altonaga. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial.
Today’s guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Xanthi C. Mangum, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent-in-Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Steven Kim, William Parente and Allan Medina of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,330 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $4 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.