Federal grand jury indicts Crockett man, 12 others in $173 million healthcare kickback conspiracy

Source: KTRE
Source: KTRE

HOUSTON, TX (KTRE) - A federal grand jury indicted a 55-year-old Crockett man and 12 other people in connection to an alleged conspiracy to pay kickbacks to 10 area personal care home owners and patient advocates that resulted in $173 million being billed to the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

On Wednesday, two Houston residents who were considered fugitives were found and arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force and the FBI. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas issued a press release on the 13-count indictment Friday.

Jeffery Parsons and David Edson, 65, of Palm Harbor, Fla., were the vice presidents of development and operations, respectively, for Continuum Healthcare LLC. Parsons posted a $50,000 bail and was released from custody on April 24.

Jury selection in the case has been scheduled for June 9.

"The indictment alleges Edson and Parsons ran Continuum, which owned and operated three community mental health centers in the greater Houston Area," the press release stated. "They allegedly billed Medicare and Medicaid for mental health services which were unnecessary, and, in some cases, not even provided. According to the indictment, Edson and Parsons directed kickbacks to be paid to numerous area personal care home owners and patient advocates in exchange for the referral of Medicare patients to Continuum."

The two Houston residents that were taken into custody Wednesday were Jacqueline Harris, 51, and Vernon Lacy III, 29. They were both patient advocates for Continuum LLC, and they were ordered into temporary custody until their scheduled detention hearings Thursday and Friday.

Also listed in the indictment were personal care owners Aretha Johnson, 61, of Sweeney, Inger Michelle Pace, 51, James Bobino, 44, Mary Browning, 66, all of Houston, and Deborah Davis, 51, of Atlanta, Ga., along with patient advocates Earnestine Johnson, 55, and Ronald Turner, 53, both of Houston.

According to the press release, Harris, Lacy, Aretha Johnson, Pace, Bobino, Browning, Davis, and Earnestine Johnson were charged with conspiring to solicit or receive kickbacks in connection to the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Edson, Parsons and Aretha Johnson were also charged with money laundering for engaging in monetary transactions in criminally derived property greater than $10,000 from proceeds of the conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks.

"According to the allegations in the indictment, Edson and Parson caused $173 million to be billed to the Medicare and Medicaid programs for patients obtained as the result of illegal kickbacks paid to the personal care home owners and patient advocates," the press release stated. "Medicare and Medicaid paid a total of approximately $69.4 million to Continuum, according to the charges."

The press release stated that the conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in a federal prison, and money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in a federal prison. Both charges carry a maximum fine of $250,000.

"The criminal charges are the result of a joint investigation conducted by agents of the FBI, Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General, Texas Attorney General's Office - Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Internal Revenue Service- Criminal Investigation and the Railroad Retirement Board-Office of Inspector General," the press release stated.

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