Owner Of Harris Therapy, Inc. Convicted On Healthcare Fraud Charges
HONOLULU – A federal jury today found Sheila Harris, 53, of Honolulu, guilty of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and false statements involving healthcare matters for her role in submitting false claims and documents to TRICARE, a federal health benefits program serving military families. Harris owned and operated Harris Therapy, Inc., which provided therapeutic services, including speech, physical, and occupational therapy, on Oahu. The jury verdict came one day after a ten-day trial.
According to information presented in court, from 2008 to 2012, Harris submitted false claims and documents to TRICARE for payment for speech therapy services that were not performed. On the claims, Harris falsified dates of services and the treating speech therapy provider. Three Speech Language Pathologists who treated patients for Harris Therapy during this timeframe testified at trial that Harris directed them to create false invoices and false therapy notes for dates when no speech therapy treatment took place. During an audit of Harris Therapy, Harris directed others to alter and falsify therapy notes that were then submitted to TRICARE. In all, the scheme to defraud involved over $339,628 of false speech therapy services billed to TRICARE for non-existent treatment dates. It also involved 2,117 dates of service billed to TRICARE falsely using the name of a therapist as the treating provider who was on maternity leave at the time the services were supposedly provided.
“Rooting out health care fraud is critical to protecting the integrity of the health care system as a whole,” said U.S. Attorney Kenji M. Price. “TRICARE provides valuable health benefits to military families, and we are committed to vigorously prosecuting all providers who try to undermine our healthcare delivery systems by defrauding the government.”
“Health care fraud is a serious offense that costs Americans billions of dollars” said Chris D. Hendrickson, Special Agent in Charge, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Western Field Office. “These crimes affect real people and erode the trust that should exist between a patient and their health care provider. DCIS and our law enforcement partners are committed and determined to doing everything it takes to ensure the health care system works for military families – and not those, whether health care providers or others, who seek to abuse the system.”
Harris was convicted of eleven counts of wire fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft, and four counts of false statements relating to healthcare matters. Harris will face a mandatory term of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft, up to twenty years in prison for each count of wire fraud, and up to five years in prison for each count of false statements relating to health care matters when she is sentenced on August 20, 2018, by Senior U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor.
The investigation was led by Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rebecca Perlmutter and Gregg Paris Yates handled the prosecution.