Ambulance Company Owner and Son Sentenced for Conspiracy to Commit Health Care and Wire Fraud
RALEIGH—United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that today, United States District Judge Terrence W. Boyle sentenced Phyllis Stallings Harrell and Paul Lynn Trueblood, both of Belvidere, North Carolina. Harrell was sentenced to 72 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, and was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,598,356.91. Trueblood was sentenced to 53 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,516,654.21.
Both Harrell and Trueblood pled guilty on November 14, 2013, to count one of the second superseding indictment, which charged them with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349.
“This health care provider and her son abused the trust of taxpayers by billing the government for more than $1.5 million ambulance services that they didn’t perform. This case underscores for health care providers that if you commit Medicare and Medicaid fraud, you should expect a lengthy stay in federal prison,” stated U.S. Attorney Walker.
Count one of the second superseding indictment alleges that between January 2004 and December 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 ndictment 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 andTrueblood 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 andTrueblood 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.
“Ambulance transportation companies that make fraudulent claims by providing unnecessary services or misrepresenting to Medicare and Medicaid about the services they provide will instead have to answer to the government for their misdeeds,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Atlanta Region.
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 ordered forfeiture with respect to these assets and other assets contained in the superseding indictment.
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 Division, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division of Medical Assistance, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney William M. Gilmore and Special Assistant United States Attorney John Parris prosecuted the case for the Economic Crimes Division of the United States Attorney’s Office.