(KMSP) - The Minnesota Attorney General’s office charged seven women with nine counts of theft and racketeering after they allegedly stole about $7.5 million in Medicaid funding.
According to court documents, the alleged ringleader, Lillian Richardson, enlisted family and friends to set up home health care businesses in Minnesota, and collect money for services never rendered.
Richardson, 52, was prosecuted and convicted of Medical Assistance Fraud in Minnesota in 2012. As a result, she was ordered to pay $65,000 in restitution and banned from participating in any Medical Assistance for five years.
In an effort to hide her involvement in this most recent scheme, Richardson recruited her daughter, two sisters, sister-in-law and two friends to operate five new home health care agencies while she worked behind the scenes. Court documents allege the five agencies billed more than $7 million in claims since 2013.
“She was billing many, many hours in a day, more than 24 hours in a day,” said Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.
In one case, the company received more than $54,000 under the name of a man who told state investigators he has lived in Ohio since 2000 and never heard of the company or worked for them.
Many of the companies were interwoven, including overlapping personal care assistants, nurses, office employees and recipients. Swanson says from patients to employees, many were family or friends of Richardson.
“A lot of the 'patients' are people that she is related to or people who she’s provided kick-backs or payments," said Swanson. “To sweeten the pot, we believe, that she gives money to some of the recipients who then have a vested interest in making sure the scheme continues.”
Swanson said when compared to other health services, home care services are at a higher risk of Medicaid fraud.
“When you’re in a nursing home, when you’re in a hospital, there’s a lot of checks and balances to make sure the care is actually being delivered," she said. "When it comes to home healthcare, there’s nobody really in the home except for the patient and the care provider, which unfortunately creates some openings for bad apples to take advantage of the system."
Medical Assistance is funded by taxpayers in part to provide personal care assistance to low-income patients in their homes.
Swanson said that once they figured out Richardson was still operating, they filed petitions to have her probation revoked, and Arkansas sent her back to Minnesota. She is currently being held at the Shakopee Correctional Facility.
The five agencies involved are: Abundant Hands Home Care, LLC (“Abundant”); Bridging Together, LLC (“Bridging”); Caring for Angels, LLC (“Caring”); Healing Hands Home Care, LLC (“Healing”); and Universal Home Health Care, LLC (“Universal”).