Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Six Face Charges for Medi-Cal Fraud at Drug Rehabilitation Centers
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
The owner and five former employees of a Los Angeles-based drug rehabilitation center have been arrested for allegedly billing the state for treatment sessions that were never performed.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown said yesterday that workers at New Beginnings Recovery Treatment Center committed Medi-Cal fraud by submitting more than 1,600 phony claims totaling $68,000.
Owner Tatyana Yakovenko and five others were arrested yesterday and booked on charges of felony grand theft and filing false Medi-Cal claims.
Brown says Yakovenko and upper management staff required therapists and group counselors to “ghost write” sessions that were never performed and forge group therapy sign-in sheets at its four treatment centers in Los Angeles County. The suspects “stole tens of thousands of dollars” from Medi-Cal through the scheme, Brown said in a statement.
“In this time of economic crisis, it’s brazen and offensive that these individuals chose to rip off public health programs instead of helping substance abusers get their lives together,” Brown said.
Between July 1, 2005, and May 30, 2009, Yakovenko and her associates submitted 1,642 fraudulent claims totaling more than $68,000 to the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, authorities said.
New Beginnings was certified as a substance abuse clinic in Janurary 2002. In late 2008, Brown’s office launched an investigation into allegations that New Beginnings was submitting false Medi-Cal claims to ADP, and the investigation uncovered that as many as half of the claims were fraudulent, authorities said.
The investigation also revealed that several patients who were enrolled in the program did not have a drug problem, and many of their drug tests were fabricated to ensure continued and unnecessary treatment, authorities said. New Beginnings employees allegedly enticed adult Medi-Cal beneficiaries to enroll in the organization’s drug counseling program by offering cigarettes, food and assistance with Section 8 housing qualification.
Counselors were allegedly instructed to occasionally create a “crisis,” which meant a dirty drug test or a situation that warranted a client’s continued drug treatment.
Investigators said they determined that some counselors were ordered to enter treatment records for 120 clients when only 40 clients were actually receiving treatment.
In addition to Yakovenko, others facing charges are Natalya Zvereva, 34, of Sherman Oaks; Carlos Villanueva, 38, of Pico Rivera; Aleksey Lisitsa, 27, of Los Angeles; Jodee A. Wallace, 41, of Granada Hills; and Romalis Conway, 29, of Los Angeles.
The maximum sentence for conviction on the charges of both felony grand theft and filing false Medi-Cal claims is three years in state prison.
Bail was set at $68,000 for Yakovenko and at $40,000 for the other five defendants.
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