A federal grand jury last week indicted First American Health Care, one of the nation's largest home-care providers, on charges that company owners used bogus Medicare claims to support their lavish lifestyle.
The indictments were handed up against the Brunswick, Ga.-based company, its owners and two officers on criminal Medicare fraud charges.
First American, formerly known as ABC Home Health Services, is the second home-care company based in Georgia to be indicted this year for fraud.
In March, a federal grand jury in Augusta, Ga., returned a 133-count indictment against Augusta-based Healthmaster Home Health Care for submitting false claims to Medicare. The company's owner, Jeanette G. Garrison, first pleaded innocent to the charges but later entered into a plea agreement (July 31, p. 12).
In the First American case, a federal grand jury in Savannah, Ga., returned an 82-count indictment Aug. 24 charging the company with criminal Medicare fraud. Also charged were the company's owners, Robert and Margie Mills, and two other executives: Arthur DeLozier, First American's chief accountant; and James McManus, former chief pilot of the company's corporate airplane.
The government says the company billed Medicare for a number of nonreimbursable items, including personal travel, political contributions, and wages and salaries of "ghost employees." The total number of alleged false claims exceeded $1 million from 1989 through 1993.
The company said it "intends to defend these charges vigorously and denies all allegations of wrongdoing by the U.S. attorney's office." It reiterated its contention that it's a victim of a personal vendetta by an auditor who worked for the Medicare fiscal intermediary that handled the company's claims.
Civil Medicare fraud charges, filed by HHS' inspector general's office, also are pending against the company. HHS wants to exclude First American from the Medicare program (March 6, p. 2).
The penalties for criminal Medicare fraud violations include fines and possible imprisonment.