Ambulance Company Owner and Son Plead Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Health Care and Wire Fraud
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 15, 2013|
GREENVILLE—United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that today before United States District Judge Terrence W. Boyle, Phyllis Stallings Harrell and Paul Lynn Trueblood, both of Belvidere, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to count one of the second superseding indictment that charged them with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349.
Count one of the second superseding indictment alleges that between January of 2004 and December of 2009, Harrell and Trueblood conspired to defraud Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers in connection with various billings for alleged non-emergency ambulance transportation services in the area of Elizabeth City. The indictment alleges that Harrell, the mother of Trueblood, billed Medicare and Medicaid through Harrell Medical Transport, a company owned by Harrell and operated by Harrell and Trueblood. The indictment further alleges that Trueblood operated a wheelchair van transportation company that transported Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to routine medical appointments on a weekly basis. The indictment alleges that although patients were transported in wheelchair vans, Harrell and Trueblood billed Medicare and Medicaid through Harrell Medical Transport as though the trips had occurred in an ambulance. Medicare and Medicaid do not pay wheelchair van providers for wheelchair van transportation. The indictment alleges that Harrell and Trueblood fabricated and caused to be fabricated information in medical records to make it appear as though the patients had traveled by ambulance. The indictment also alleges that Harrell and Trueblood caused employees of Harrell Medical Transport to omit material information in medical records concerning the ability of patients to walk and ride in wheelchairs, which affects whether Medicare and Medicaid will pay for ambulance transportation.
During the investigation of the case, the United States Attorney’s Office, with the assistance of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office-Medicaid Investigations Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, seized several hundred thousand dollars in assets held by Harrell and Trueblood. Seized assets included various ambulances and other vehicles, as well as the contents of various bank and investment accounts.
During court today, United States District Judge Terrence W. Boyle entered a Preliminary Order of Forfeiture with respect to these assets and other assets linked to the fraud.
At sentencing, which has been tentatively scheduled for the Court’s February 17, 2014 term, Harrell and Trueblood each face up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and up to a $250,000 fine. Harrell and Trueblood will also be ordered to make restitution to Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers who lost money due to the fraud. While the exact amount of restitution has yet to be determined, during court the government noted that the loss in the case could amount to as much as $2.5 million.
The investigation of this case was conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, the North Carolina Department of Justice’s Medicaid Investigations Unit, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney William M. Gilmore is the assigned prosecutor on the case from the Economic Crimes Division of the United States Attorney’s Office.