A metro-Atlanta trio has been sentenced to prison for organizing and participating in a healthcare fraud scheme that stole millions in Medicaid funds in Georgia, Louisiana and Florida.
Matthew Harrell, 44, of Atlanta was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Steve C. Jones to 11 years in federal prison, and three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $2,543,629.98, in restitution. On Dec. 19, 2019, Harrell pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Co-defendant Nikki Richardson, 44, of Fairburn was sentenced on Jan. 29, to three years, and eleven months, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $1,719,189.00 in restitution. Co-defendant Tomeka Howard, 44, of Decatur pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud and aggravated identity charges and was sentenced to three years’ probation, with 18 months of home confinement, and ordered to pay $732,189.00 in restitution.
“Harrell stole over $2 million dollars from the Medicaid program,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said. “He stole those funds from several states and continued his fraud schemes even after he was released on bond. Our office will continue to prosecute those who believe they can steal from programs designed to help citizens in need.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, Harrell and his co-conspirators owned or worked with companies that purportedly provided mental health counseling and treatment to children and adults. These companies included Revive Athletics, Inc., R.A. Florida, Inc., Jode Counseling Treatment and Training Services, LLC, 118 Management and Consulting, Inc. and A Brighter Day, LLC. Prosecutors said these companies billed over $3.5 million in Medicaid claims, and received approximately $2.5 million based on fraudulent billing.
According to the indictment, Harrell and the co-conspirators fraudulently used the Medicaid provider numbers of mental health service providers, including a psychologist and licensed clinical social workers, located in Georgia and Florida. Harrell’s companies and related entities then used these identities to submit fraudulent Medicaid claims seeking payment for mental health services that were never provided.
Prosecutors said Harrell and his co-conspirators obtained Medicaid members numbers by stealing them from children’s summer and football camp registrations, from children placed in foster care, and from stolen government a document containing the numbers of 13,000 Louisiana Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients.
“The FBI makes it a priority to work with our federal and state partners to stop people from abusing government funded programs like Medicaid,” Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta Chris Hacker said. “Abuse of these programs drives up their cost, hurting every single taxpayer in this country, but most importantly the low-income and elderly citizens who are entitled to the benefits they provide.”
Harrell attempted to conceal the fraud scheme by directing employees and contractors to create fraudulent documentation and forge provider signatures to support the fraudulent billing. Harrell initially started the fraudulent billing scheme in Georgia and replicated the scheme in Florida and then Louisiana before his arrest. While on pretrial release in this case, Harrell opened a new company in Louisiana and continued to fraudulently bill Louisiana Medicaid until his bond was revoked and he was detained pending trial.