LAWFUEL – Press Release Service – R. Alexander Acosta, Unite…

LAWFUEL – Press Release Service – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Jonathan I. Solomon, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced today the unsealing of a forty three (43) count Indictment charging defendants Althea N. Graves, 36, of Stuart, Florida, Bernard R. Graves Jr., 48, of Stuart, Florida, Yvonne May Richards, a/k/a Yvonne Howell, 58, of Tamarac, Florida, and Neil Leder, 49, of Tamarac, Florida, with executing a six-year scheme to defraud the Medicare Program in connection with the operation of a psychiatric partial hospitalization program at the now defunct Oakland Community Health Center Inc., formerly located in Oakland Park, Florida. Both Althea Graves and Bernard Graves were arrested yesterday and made their initial court appearances in Miami. Defendant Yvonne Howell is expected to appear in Miami federal court today. No date has yet been set for defendant Leder.

According to the Indictment, Bernard R. Graves Jr. was the Administrator and part owner of Oakland Community Health Center Inc. (Oakland), and his wife, Althea N. Graves, was the Assistant Administrator, with an undisclosed ownership interest in Oakland. Yvonne May Richards, the mother of defendant Althea N. Graves, was the Clinical Director, and was involved in running the clinical operations at Oakland. Neil Leder was a licensed clinical social worker who provided therapy services at Oakland.

The Indictment alleges that the defendants executed an elaborate scheme to defraud Medicare that involved billing Medicare for psychiatric partial hospitalization services that were never performed; billing Medicare for providing psychiatric partial hospitalization services to patients who did not need, would not benefit from, or did not meet Medicare’s requirements for receiving the services; and billing Medicare for psychiatric partial hospitalization services that were performed by unlicensed personnel. The Indictment alleges that the defendants perpetrated the scheme by causing a variety of false medical records to be prepared, including forged or altered physician admission orders and re-certifications, treatment notes and treatment plans. In addition, the Indictment alleges that the defendants directed physicians and therapists employed at Oakland to create false patient evaluations, treatment notes and treatment plans. All defendants, including Leder, are charged with conspiracy to make false documents relating to health care matters (Count 2), and Bernard and Althea Graves and Yvonne Richards are charged with conspiracy to submit false claims to Medicare (Count 1).

The Indictment further alleges that the Oakland submitted requests to Medicare to pay personal living expenses of the Graveses disguised as business expenses of Oakland. These personal expenses included part of the cost of building and furnishing the Graveses’ elaborate residence, the salary of their nanny, and costs of running a medical equipment business the Graveses also owned. According to the Indictment, between 1996 and 2003, Oakland submitted requests for reimbursement to Medicare claiming operating costs of more than $25 million. As a result of these claims, Medicare paid Oakland more than $10 million.

The Indictment also alleges that the Graveses and Richards paid kickbacks to assisted living facilities to send their residents to Oakland for psychiatric partial hospitalization services (Count 24). The Indictment also alleges that Althea Graves and Bernard Graves not only paid, but also received, cash kickbacks from at least one of Oakland’s service providers (Count 25-42).

Lastly, the Indictment charges defendants Althea and Bernard Graves and Yvonne Richards with money laundering in connection with their use of stolen Medicare money to pay kickbacks to assisted living facilities to perpetuate the scheme to defraud Medicare, and in connection with their attempts to conceal the money stolen from Medicare through various financial transactions (Count 43).

The defendants face maximum sentences ranging from 5 years to 20 years, and fines from $250,000 up to $20 million, on the various charges in the Indictment.

United States Attorney Alexander Acosta stated, “Health care fraud diverts limited government money from already strained health care programs meant to benefit the sick and the elderly. In this instance, the defendants abused the Medicare system, and falsely billed Medicare for their personal expenses, including the cost of their nanny and furnishing their home. We will not tolerate such rampant abuses, and will continue to aggressively prosecute health care fraudsters.”

Jonathan I. Solomon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI-Miami Office, stated, “These defendants fraudulently pocketed $10,000,000 in U.S. taxpayers’ money. It is disgraceful that individuals would steal money from the government for unnecessary or nonexistent medical care when legitimate patients are in need of mental health services and millions of Americans have no health insurance coverage at all. Health care fraud is a significant crime issue in South Florida and we will continue to work with our partners to combat this problem.”

Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Robert N. Nicholson and Roger H. Stefin.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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