Cases claim $1.2M in Marietta Medicaid fraud
by Lindsay Field
July 30, 2013 12:23 AM | 4741 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Two separate cases surfaced Monday involving local people accused of defrauding the federal Medicaid system out of more than $1.2 million in false claims.

In the first case, three Cobb County residents and a fourth from Ellenwood have been indicted on charges of filing fraudulent Medicaid claims, forgery and conspiracy.

Garry Hankerson Jr., 45, and his wife Lisa Nicole Hankerson, 43, both of Marietta, along with Pierre Antonio Hixon, 40, of Kennesaw and Londrea Diez Buchanan, 42, are accused of conspiring to defraud the state and commit Medicaid fraud. They also face charges of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

The Cobb County grand jury issued the indictment late last week against the four co-defendants and recommended a $25,000 bond be set for each in addition to the arrest warrants they ordered be served.

None of the suspects had been arrested as of late Monday, according to Cobb County jail records.

The indictment alleges that Garry and Lisa Hankerson submitted false billing statements to the Georgia Medicaid program between March 2006 and June 2010.

Their nonprofit company, First Step Counseling Services Inc., located south of Terrell Mill Road in southeast Cobb, was reportedly paid $688,550 for counseling service claims that ranged anywhere from $120 to $412 each and were never rendered, according to the indictment.

First Step Counseling, an in-home mental health program for youths diagnosed with severe behavioral disorders, offers mental health, group therapy, parent training, and mentoring and bullying prevention services, according to its website firststepinc.org.

Hixon, who is listed as one-third owner of First Step, and Buchanan, who worked at First Step as an unlicensed paraprofessional, allegedly signed their names to patient progress notes claiming to have provided Intensive Family Intervention (IFI) services when in fact no services were provided, the indictment alleges.

Patient chart documents to support billing for un-rendered services were said to allegedly contain forged signatures.

Phone calls to Garry Hankerson and Buchanan at First Step were not returned by press time Monday.

Hixon was reached by phone but he said he wasn’t aware of the indictment and declined to comment on the allegations.

Violation of the RICO Act carries a 5-to 20-year prison sentence and a fine up to three times the financial gain realized by those engaged in the activity.

Second case involves $549,326

In the second case, the Cobb grand jury indicted Timothy Robinson on four counts of Medicaid Fraud and four counts of Identity Fraud for falsely billing Georgia Medicaid for services that were not provided.

Robinson was the owner and operator of Robinson Rehabilitation Services Inc., which offered speech therapy services. He employed four speech therapists to provide services around metro Atlanta. He was authorized to submit billing on their behalf to Georgia Medicaid during their employment with Robinson Rehabilitation.

An investigation revealed that the speech therapists terminated their employment, each at different times in 2009 and 2010. From about 2009 until February of 2013, Robinson allegedly submitted false claims for Medicaid reimbursement using the four speech therapists’ provider identification and provider numbers after they had terminated employment with Robinson Rehabilitation. In total, Robinson received $549,326 in alleged fraudulent Medicaid payments to which he was not entitled, according to the indictment.

Medicaid fraud is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000, and anyone found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the state could face one to five years in prison. Identity fraud is punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

The cases are being prosecuted by the Georgia Attorney General’s Office and investigated by the Georgia Department of Community Health.

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