Brunswick Woman Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison for Defrauding Medicaid of More Than $4 Million
BRUNSWICK, GA—Schella Logan Hope, 47, of Brunswick, Georgia, who was previously convicted by a federal jury of various health care fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering offenses for her role in a multi-million-dollar Medicaid fraud conspiracy, was sentenced last month to 16 years in prison. The sentence was imposed by the Honorable Lisa Godbey Wood, Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, who also presided over Hope’s trial.
According to the evidence presented at trial and at sentencing, Hope was a licensed dietician who ran a business located in Brunswick, Georgia, known as Hope Nutritional Services. From 2005 through 2011, Hope misappropriated the identities of thousands of needy children between the ages of 0 and 5 that were enrolled in Head Start programs located throughout the state of Georgia. Once Hope obtained the identities of these children, she fabricated patient files, falsified prescriptions from doctors, and submitted $4 million worth of bogus claims to Medicaid for nutritional services that were not provided. The evidence further showed that Hope used the money she stole from Medicaid to pay for luxury automobiles, designer clothing, and luxury vacations, among other things.
In November 2013, after four days of testimony, a federal jury convicted Hope on 58 counts of conspiracy, health care fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering. Upon her convictions for these offenses, Chief Judge Wood remanded Hope to the custody of the United States Marshals.
United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver stated, “Medicaid and other federal programs cannot continue to sustain the enormous burden caused by phony business people like this defendant who work to defraud the United States Government. Vigorous and aggressive enforcement and prosecution is the only response that will help to ensure that these important programs remain available to provide needed assistance. The Department of Justice and this U.S. Attorney’s Office are committed to safeguarding federal health care programs from fraud and abuse and holding those who steal from the American taxpayers responsible for their crimes.”
“Committing Medicaid fraud on any level is egregious behavior,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Atlanta Regional Office. “Today’s sentence demonstrates that when you use programs such as Head Start to facilitate your fraud even further, you will, indeed, pay the piper.”
J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated, “The sentencing handed down in this case reflects the severity of the crimes committed. Funds destined for the many federal programs, to include that of Medicaid, are for those who truly need them and not for the personal gains of such individuals as Ms. Hope. The FBI will continue to provide extensive investigative resources toward the protection of these much needed federally funded programs.”
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said, “Not only did Schella Hope cheat the Medicaid program out of millions of dollars, she stole the identities of the very children she was supposed to be helping. I am pleased that Judge Lisa Godbey Wood has handed down a sentence that fits the crime. My office will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to aggressively prosecute those who defraud Georgia Medicaid.”
In addition to the sentence of imprisonment, Chief Judge Wood ordered that Hope pay more than $4 million in restitution to Medicaid and serve three years of supervised release upon completion of the sentence of imprisonment. Mr. Tarver noted that there is no parole in the federal system.
The conviction and sentence of Hope resulted from a joint investigation by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Georgia’s Department of Community Health; and Georgia Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
Assistant United States Attorneys Brian T. Rafferty and Assistant Attorney General Robin Daitch prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States. For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547.