All Bets Are Off

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Stethoscope on 100 dollar bills symbolizing financial surveillance

Fraudsters tend to gamble with their chances of getting caught and usually push the envelope. One Las Vegas, Nev., fraudster hedged her bets and is now facing up to three decades in prison for her role in a Medicaid billing scheme. (I bet she’s not feeling so lucky now.)

Latisha Reese Harron pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud, Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, and Aggravated Identity Theft. Originally from North Carolina, Harron admitted to conspiring with her husband to defraud the North Carolina Medicaid Program out of millions of dollars by billing fictitious home health services.

The couple laundered their fraud scheme proceeds and increased the size of their personal bank accounts. They went on a shopping spree and purchased a private jet, expensive jewelry, designer clothing, and real estate properties throughout North Carolina. (I bet their motto was  “Go big, or go home.” Ironically, they may end up going to the “Big House” afterall.)

Harron owned and operated Agape Healthcare Systems, Inc. (Agape), which was certified as a Medicaid home health provider in North Carolina. She registered Agape as a legitimate Medicaid provider by concealing a prior felony conviction for identity theft.

Agape continued to bill the North Carolina Medicaid program for home health services even though Harron relocated to Maryland in 2012. (Obviously, she wasn’t providing services during this time.) Harron relocated once again in 2017 to Las Vegas, where she married her husband and co-defendant Timothy Harron. (I wonder if Elvis officiated or if they did a drive-thru wedding. Unfortunately for them, what happened in Vegas did not stay in Vegas.)

Timothy Harron’s previous felony convictions were also concealed on his Medicaid enrollment documents. (Imagine that. Never would have guessed.) The couple continued to defraud North Carolina Medicaid by billing for healthcare services that did not occur. Agape fraudulently billed more than $10 million between 2017 and 2019 alone.

The couple furthered their scheme by abusing their access to the North Carolina Medicaid eligibility tool. The Harron’s would use the Medicaid eligibility tool and personal information obtained from obituaries, such as the name and birthdate of the deceased, to see if the individual had a Medicaid Identification Number. (Hopefully the Harron’s don’t believe in ghosts, because that is a haunt-worthy offense.)

The defendants would use the Medicaid Identification Numbers of the deceased to posthumously bill Medicaid for a year’s worth of fictitious home health services. Medicaid would reimburse the couple for these services under the premise they had provided health services to these individuals prior to their deaths. (This gives “scamming the defenseless” a whole new meaning.)

Latisha Harron admitted that she laundered the proceeds from the Agape fraud into obtaining various extravagant items. These expenses included purchasing designer clothing and jewelry items. (They won’t be able to keep up this lavish lifestyle behind bars.) Specifically, the couple purchased a $900,000 British Aerospace Bae 125-800A private jet; spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Tiffany & Co. and Brioni clothing and jewelry; thousands of dollars on North Carolina business properties; and gym equipment. She agreed to forfeit these items and any additional proceeds from her crimes as part of her plea agreement. (That’s about the only smart thing she did.)

Latisha Harron faces up to 20 years in prison for Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud and Wire Fraud as well as up to 10 years for Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering. Each charge of aggravated identity theft carries a maximum punishment of not less than, nor more than, two years in prison consecutive to other sentences. (The jet setting adventures were definitely not worth spending decades in prison.)

The Department of Justice relies on its federal and state partners as well as tips from the public to detect and prosecute Medicaid fraud. Suspected Medicaid fraud can be reported by phone at 1-800-447-8477 or via email to HHSTips@oig.hhs.gov.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Business Owner Who Orchestrated $13 Million Fraud Upon North Carolina Medicaid Program from Las Vegas Pleads Guilty, Forfeits Private Jet,” published on November 18, 2020.

RALEIGH, N.C. – A Las Vegas, Nevada resident pleaded guilty today to Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud, Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, and Aggravated Identity Theft, and further agreed to forfeit the proceeds of her crimes.  These proceeds included up to $13,396,921.64, a British Aerospace Bae 125-800A Aircraft, a 2017 Aston Martin DB 11 sports car; a 2016 Ford F-150 Super-Crew pickup truck; real property held in the name of Assured Healthcare Systems in Hertford County, North Carolina; real property located in Charles County, Maryland; as well as various other items of designer jewelry and luxury items seized from the defendant’s penthouse condominium in Las Vegas.

According to court documents, Latisha Harron, also known as Latisha Reese Holt, 44, originally from Eastern North Carolina, admitted to conspiring with her husband to carry out a massive fraud upon the North Carolina Medicaid Program (“NC Medicaid”) by billing the government for fictitious home health services.  Harron admitted to then working with her husband to launder the proceeds of the fraud into, among other things, a private jet, luxury jewelry and clothing, and properties in Ahoskie and Rich Square, North Carolina.

 

 

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.