Woman Pleads Guilty to Misappropriating Funds for Care of COVID-19 Patients
A Michigan woman pleaded guilty today in the Eastern District of Michigan to stealing government funds that were designed to aid medical providers in the treatment of patients suffering from COVID-19 and using them for her own personal expenses.
According to court documents, Amina Abbas, 36, of Taylor, admitted that she previously owned 1 on 1 Home Health (1 on 1), a home health agency in LaPorte, Indiana, which she had closed in early 2020. 1 on 1, which was never operational during the pandemic, received approximately $37,657 designated for the medical treatment and care of COVID-19 patients. Abbas admitted that she stole the funds by issuing checks to her family members for personal use, rather than using the funds in conjunction with pandemic relief efforts as required.
Abbas pleaded guilty to one count of theft of public money. She is scheduled to be sentenced on May 19, and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The charges against Abbas were the first criminal charges for the intentional misuse of funds distributed from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund, money specially apportioned by the CARES Act to help health care providers who were financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, to provide care to patients who were suffering from COVID-19, and compensate providers for the cost of that care. These funds were critical to providing relief to health care providers and maintaining access to medical care during the pandemic.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison for the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Mario Pinto of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG’s) Chicago Region, and Acting Special Agent in Charge Josh Hauxhurst of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office made the announcement.
Trial Attorneys Emily Gurskis and Jay McCormack of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
In May 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the department in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.