Phony Psychiatrist Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Defrauding Patients, Doctors, and Insurance Companies
|U.S. Attorney’s Office September 19, 2012|
PHILADELPHIA—Jo Benoit, a.k.a. Elissa Jo Benoit, 77, of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, was sentenced today to 72 months in prison for a health care fraud scheme that included posing as a psychiatrist when she was not one and writing prescriptions for people who suffered from serious mental health issues, including bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and other serious conditions. More than 50 patients were victims of Benoit’s scam. In addition to the patients she defrauded and exposed to improper treatment, Benoit stole the identifying information of legitimate psychiatrists and forged prescriptions in their names. She also used one psychiatrist’s identity to bill insurance companies more than $500,000 for patient visits. Benoit was convicted by a federal jury on June 12, 2012, of 76 counts of health care fraud, aggravated identity theft, distribution of controlled substances, and distribution of controlled substances to minors.
The defendant was immediately taken into custody to begin serving her six-year prison sentence. In addition, the defendant was ordered to pay forfeiture and to pay restitution in the full amount that she defrauded patients and insurance companies. In total, she is required to make the victims whole in the amount of $422,583.62. In addition, she was ordered to pay a special assessment of $7,600, and she is subject to three years of supervised release.
Benoit was the CEO and founder of a mental health clinic called Transition Phase III from February 4, 2009, until the clinic was closed after a search warrant was executed in July 2011. She advertised the clinic as a trauma-specific mental health clinic directed at victims of trauma, children, and members of the military and their families. Benoit provided forged prescriptions to the patients at the clinic and medicated the patients that she purported to be treating. Benoit also wrote prescriptions to children, one as young as 4 years old. During the course of her fraud, the defendant exposed those patients to a serious risk of harm and left them without appropriate treatment.
“This case demonstrates the many serious problems associated with health care fraud,” said Special Agent in Charge Nick DiGiulio, of the Inspector General’s Office for the United States Department of Health and Human Services in Philadelphia. “Jo Benoit illegally prescribed dangerous drugs to children and military veterans. She lied to patients about her credentials, provided sham psychiatric services to those with serious mental traumas, stole the identities of legitimate health care professionals, and lied to our insurance programs for money. We will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to protect our citizens from these atrocious crimes.”
The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew J.D. Hogan.