7 charged in Medicare fraud, feds seize millions

Published 2:36 pm Friday, October 30, 2009

Seven people associated with a medical clinic have been indicted for alleged Medicaid and Medicare fraud and federal authorities seized millions of dollars in cash and property in Mississippi and Texas, court records said.

Statewide Physical Medicine Group Inc. billed Medicare and Medicaid for more than $39 million in services in Mississippi during the alleged conspiracy, from 2000 to 2005, according to the indictment. The government agencies paid out $18 million. It’s not clear how much of that was obtained by allegedly fraudulent billing.

The government has seized more than $3.6 million from various accounts and prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of three properties, one each in the Texas towns of Cedar Hill and Spring, and one in Ellisville, Miss.

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Some people charged in the case apparently have ties to Alabama, New Mexico and Texas but the alleged scheme took place in Mississippi through a clinic that “purported to provide in-home physical therapy services,” according to the 19-page indictment.

At least four of those indicted are doctors who once worked as medical directors for Statewide Physical Medicine Group, according to the 13-count indictment, dated Oct. 20. Three others owned or operated the company at one time.

The defendants were scheduled to appear Nov. 4 in U.S. District Court in Hattiesburg, Miss.

There’s no record of a company called Statewide Physical Medicine Group Inc. ever incorporating in Mississippi, said Pam Weaver, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office. A phone number for the facility in Moss Point, Miss., has been disconnected.

Statewide Physical Medicine Group’s owners, Theddis Marcel Pearson and Telandra Gail Jones, transferred at least $2 million through several bank accounts to make it appear they were receiving money from a different source, court records said. The money allegedly was transferred through bank accounts in the names of Statewide Rehabilitation Services Inc. and Premier Dialysis Inc.

Jones, contacted Tuesday at Premier Dialysis in Duncanville, Texas, told The Associated Press she needs to talk to her attorney before commenting. She didn’t return a call to the AP.

Jones wrote a check from Premier Dialysis’ account to Pearson for $1 million and deposited the other $1 million into her bank account, the indictment said.

Pearson did not immediately respond to a message left at a company called TMP Ventures in Houston, Texas. TMP is associated with Southern Dialysis Group, which serves patients around the Mississippi cities of Belzoni and Fayette, according to TMP’s Web site. Southern Dialysis is not a registered Mississippi company, Weaver said Wednesday. No phone listing could be located.

The indictment says the others charged in the case are:

— Alonza Williams, a former owner of Statewide Physical Medicine Group. Williams could not be located for comment.

— Dr. Colie Crutcher, who did not immediately respond to a message left at an office in York, Ala., near the Mississippi line.

— Dr. Patrick Arnold; the only Patrick Arnold licensed by the Mississippi medical board listed an address in Albuquerque, N.M., according to the board’s Web site. A call to a New Mexico clinic was not returned.

— Dr. Cassandra Thomas; calls to a Jackson, Miss., listing for Thomas went unanswered.

— Dr. Dunk Ellis III, who did not immediately respond to a message left at a clinic in Moss Point, Miss.

The doctors served as medical directors of Statewide Physical Medicine Group over the years, the indictment said. The treatments were allegedly submitted through the doctors’ Medicare Provider numbers.

The defendants are accused of conspiring to make fraudulent claims, billing for services that were not provided by a doctor or under the direct supervision of a doctor, inflating the time they spent with patients, and lying to patients about having to make co-payments for services. Patients in Mississippi were treated around the cities of Jackson and Moss Point and in Forrest County, court records said.