Administrator Of Camden Nonprofit Admits Embezzling Funds
CAMDEN, N.J. – A Cherry Hill, New Jersey, woman today admitted embezzling over $40,000 from a nonprofit that provided mental health services to Camden’s poorest residents, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.
Maria Tavera, 53, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman in Camden federal court to an information charging her with embezzling from a health care benefit program.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Tavera was an administrator of Nueva Vida Behavioral Health Center of New Jersey, a nonprofit that provided mental health services to the Camden community, mostly to Medicaid beneficiaries.
Tavera regularly embezzled money from the Nueva Vida bank account in addition to her salary and used the money for personal expenses. She admitted that she used her Nueva Vida debit card to pay dental expenses, make purchases at a guitar store, withdraw cash, and shop for clothes and hardware. In total, Tavera embezzled over $40,000 from Nueva Vida.
Tavera faces a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 15, 2017.
Her husband, Cesar Tavera, the former Executive Director of Nueva Vida, previously pleaded guilty to defrauding Medicaid and embezzling money from Nueva Vida. He awaits sentencing.
Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited agents of the FBI’s South Jersey Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael Harpster in Philadelphia, and special agents from the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert, with the investigation. He also thanked the Medicaid Fraud Division of the New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney R. David Walk Jr. of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit in Camden.
The New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office reorganized its health care practice in 2010 and created a stand-along Health Care and Government Fraud Unit to handle both criminal and civil investigations and prosecutions of health care fraud offenses. Since that time, the office has recovered more than $1.32 billion in health care and government fraud settlements, judgments, fines, restitution and forfeiture under the False Claims Act, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and other statutes.
Defense counsel: Gilbert J. Scutti Esq., Somerdale, New Jersey