Executive Director of Suburban Autism Center Charged with Fraudulently Billing for Nonexistent Services
CHICAGO — The executive director of a suburban autism center has been indicted on federal fraud charges for allegedly billing a private insurer for nonexistent therapeutic services.
LATRICE HARRELL operated The Champion Center for Autism Inc., in Oak Forest. From November 2015 to May 2018, Harrell submitted fraudulent claims to a private insurer for therapeutic services that were not rendered, according to an indictment returned in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The claims represented that patients had received treatment by the center’s occupational therapist or behavioral analyst, when, in fact, Harrell knew that no such services were provided, the indictment states. Harrell used the names and information of the therapist and analyst without their knowledge to create the fictitious claim forms, the charges allege. As a result of the scheme, Harrell fraudulently obtained at least $1.6 million from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the indictment states.
The indictment was returned Aug. 29, 2019. It charges Harrell, 46, of Olympia Fields, with seven counts of health care fraud, two counts of making false statements in a health care matter, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
Harrell pleaded not guilty today at her arraignment before U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Kendall. A status hearing was scheduled for Nov. 18, 2019.
The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Pruitt.
The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Each count of health care fraud is punishable by up to ten years in prison, while each false statement count carries a maximum sentence of five years. Aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory prison sentence of two years, which must be served consecutively to the sentence for the underlying offense. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.