Garry Hankerson, Jr. pleaded guilty to racketeering, Medicaid fraud and conspiracy to defraud the state in Cobb Superior Court on Thursday.
A release from the Georgia Department of Law accuses Hankerson and his co-defendants of stealing more than $622,000 though fraudulent billing of Georgia Medicaid and the Amerigroup Corporation.
Hankerson is co-owner of Marietta-based First Step Counseling Services. The company provided counseling to troubled children needing therapy for behavior issues.
Children needing the counseling usually qualify for Medicaid because they are close to being taken out of their homes.
Between July 2005 and June 2010, Hankerson and his colleagues used patients’ Medicaid numbers to bill for much more work than they performed, even billing for children who weren’t in the state.
According to the release, some children only came to see Hankerson twice, but the company filled out bills for hundreds of counseling sessions. More than 3,000 fake claims were made in total.
“Hankerson shamelessly used Medicaid funds to finance his extravagant lifestyle,” Attorney General Sam Olens said in the release.
“Meanwhile, the very children he was supposed to be helping were deprived of the services they needed. My office will continue to aggressively prosecute those who steal from Georgia Medicaid.”
Hankerson brought family members into the scheme, including his wife, a childhood family friend and his cousin, none of whom had a criminal history.
The signatures of clinicians and employees were forged on hundreds of fake documents to try to hide the scheme.
Money drawn from the fraud scheme was used to buy a house, several luxury cars and trips to Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, Hankerson’s employees said their checks often bounced.
On top of that, parents of the children whose names were used were billed for services not performed and reported their children ended up in group homes, foster homes or the juvenile justice system, according to the department of law.
Cobb Superior Court Judge James Bodiford sentenced Hankerson to seven years in prison, 13 years’ probation and ordered restitution of $622,126 to the Georgia Department of Community Health and to Amerigroup.
Three co-defendants will be sentenced June 23.