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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Connecticut

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 15, 2021

Imposter Provider of Autism Services to Serve Prison Time for Fraud and Identity Theft Offenses

Leonard C Boyle, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that JESSICA STUART, 38, of Fairfield, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer in New Haven to 27 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for health care fraud and identity theft offenses.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Stuart was employed by Helping Hands Academy, LLC, in Bridgeport, which provided applied behavior analysis services to children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).   Helping Hands Academy enrolled as a participating provider in the Connecticut Medicaid Program (“Medicaid”) in approximately September 2018.

Medicaid requires that ASD treatment services be provided under the supervision of a licensed medical practitioner or a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis.  BCBAs are also required to be credentialed in writing by the state.  Stuart does not have a college degree, was not a BCBA or licensed medical practitioner, and did not have any formal training in applied behavior analysis for ASD.  Between approximately May 2019 and September 2020, Helping Hands Academy paid Stuart at least $146,0000 and submitted to Medicaid numerous fraudulent claims for applied behavioral analysis services that Stuart performed but was not qualified to provide.  Stuart stole the professional identity of a legitimate BCBA so she could impersonate a BCBA and make a BCBA’s salary.  Stuart caused Medicaid to pay out on over 1,900 fraudulent claims related to 12 children with ASD.

The investigation revealed that Stuart also used fraudulent or fabricated documents, or forged signatures, in other areas of her life.

Medicaid suffered a loss of more than $339,561 as a result of Stuart’s conduct.  Judge Meyer ordered Stuart to make full restitution.

On June 2, 2021, Stuart pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud and one count of using false identification in connection with health care fraud.

Stuart is required to report to prison on December 3, 2021.

On April 28, 2021, Nicole Balkas, the owner of Helping Hands Academy, pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud.  She awaits sentencing.

This investigation has been conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Acting U.S. Attorney Boyle acknowledged the valuable cooperation of the Connecticut Department of Social Services in the investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David T. Huang.

People who suspect health care fraud are encouraged to report it by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS.

Topic(s): 
Health Care Fraud
Identity Theft
Component(s): 
Updated October 19, 2021