Seven Plead Guilty to Health Care Fraud Conspiracy Involving False Billing for Children’s Behavioral Health Services
Columbia, South Carolina --- Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett DeHart announced today that seven criminal defendants have pleaded guilty to charges related to a Medicaid fraud conspiracy arising from the false billing of behavioral health services for children.
The defendants are all former owners, employees, or business associates of Wrights Care Services, LLC, a North Carolina-based provider of rehabilitative behavioral health services. Today’s guilty plea of former owner Daniel Wright marks the seventh guilty plea in the case, the result of a years-long investigation and prosecution led by the United States Attorney’s Office and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in cooperation with the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.
“Health care fraud will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” said Acting U.S. Attorney DeHart. “It is a betrayal of public trust and diverts scarce resources from Americans who need health care coverage.”
“For several years, Wright and the other defendants took advantage of Medicaid, which benefits over one million low-income South Carolinians,” said Susan Ferensic, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Columbia Field Office. “Healthcare fraud continues to be at the forefront of crimes our office investigates, and this case should serve as an example to individuals and businesses that these schemes will not be tolerated.”
“Not only did this fraud scheme steal millions of dollars from our hardworking taxpayers, it took that money away from legitimate programs to help children who needed it,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said. “This case is another example of the close and productive working relationship our office has with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI and I want to commend them for their diligence in this case.”
Evidence obtained in the investigation revealed that, in 2014, Wrights Care Services was approved by South Carolina Medicaid to provide behavioral health services. Wrights Care maintained associated franchise locations throughout South Carolina, including Columbia, Spartanburg, Pickens, Cheraw, Society Hill, Bennettsville, Hartsville, and Conway. From its inception, Wrights Care Services failed to provide qualified behavioral health services to the children in its care. Nevertheless, in order to receive payment from Medicaid, members of the conspiracy submitted inflated bills and false medical records. In the case of one franchise, members of the conspiracy began billing Medicaid for services before the franchise opened its doors.
In 2015, South Carolina Medicaid sought to audit Wrights Care Services, and members of the conspiracy met in Columbia at a “note party” to forge signatures and falsify records to support the audit. During the course of the scheme, Wrights Care and its affiliated franchises submitted bills to Medicaid in the amount of $6,657,810.43.
The following defendants have pleaded guilty so far:
- Daniel Wright, 39, of Greensboro, North Carolina
- Glenn Pair, 35, of Baltimore, Maryland
- John David Zachariah Wallace, 40, of Sugar Land, Texas
- Kathleen Dubose, 54, of Greensboro, North Carolina
- Sherel Lawson, 47, of Summerfield, North Carolina
- Latasha Bethea, 37, of Fayetteville, North Carolina
- Tonya Strickland Hall, 47, of Greensboro, North Carolina
Each defendant faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States. Each defendant also faces a fine of up to $250,000 and 3 years of supervision to follow the term of imprisonment. United States District Judge Mary G. Lewis accepted the guilty pleas and will sentence the defendants after receiving and reviewing presentencing reports prepared by the United States Probation Office.
This case was investigated by Special Agents Neil Power and Mark McMahon of the FBI, and Assistant Attorney General Brent Yandle and Assistant Chief Investigator Jamie Seales of the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Brook Andrews is prosecuting the case.