U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of North Carolina
(704) 344-6222
December 18, 2014

Mecklenburg County Social Worker Charged with Receiving Illegal Kickbacks in Connection with Medicaid Fraud Scheme

CHARLOTTE, NC—Ryce Edward Hatchett, Jr., 43, of Charlotte, and a Senior Social Worker with the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services (DSS), was charged today by a criminal bill of information with one count of receiving illegal kickbacks, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. A plea agreement has also been filed and Hatchett is expected to appear in federal court in the coming weeks to formally accept the guilty plea.

U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte.

According to filed court documents, from November 2009 to October 2010, and while working at DSS, Hatchett participated in an illegal kickback scheme with Ronnie Lorenzo Robinson, owner and operator of “Peaceful Alternative Resources, Inc.” (PAR), a non-profit mental health and mentoring services provider with offices in Charlotte and surrounding areas. Court records indicate that Hatchett solicited and received illegal kickbacks from Robinson and PAR, in exchange for the referrals of individuals enrolled with the Medicaid program, some of whom were DSS clients. Court records show that Robinson used the beneficiaries’ information to file fraudulent reimbursement claims with Medicaid for services that were either not approved by Medicaid or were never provided. According to court records, Hatchett received at least $12,000 in illegal kickbacks from Robinson, in exchange for providing the information of the Medicaid recipients.

Hatchett will be ordered by the U.S. District Court to appear on a summons for his initial appearance, which will be scheduled by the Court. At sentencing, he faces a maximum term of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for receiving the illegal kickbacks. In his plea agreement, Hatchett has agreed to pay full restitution to Medicaid for any losses resulting from his criminal conduct. The final restitution amount will be determined by the court at Hatchett’s sentencing hearing, which has not been scheduled yet.

Robinson pleaded guilty in January 2014 to two counts of health care fraud in connection with a separate case and is currently awaiting sentencing.

The investigation into Hatchett was handled by the FBI with assistance from the North Carolina Medicaid Investigations Division. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelli Ferry of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.

The investigation and charges are the work of the Western District’s joint Health Care Fraud Task Force. The Task Force is multi-agency team of experienced federal and state investigators, working in conjunction with criminal and civil Assistant United States Attorneys, dedicated to identifying and prosecuting those who defraud the health care system, and reducing the potential for health care fraud in the future. The Task Force focuses on the coordination of cases, information sharing, identification of trends in health care fraud throughout the region, staffing of all whistle blower complaints, and the creation of investigative teams so that individual agencies may focus their unique areas of expertise on investigations. The Task Force builds upon existing partnerships between the agencies and its work reflects a heightened effort to reduce fraud and recover taxpayer dollars.

If you suspect Medicare fraud please report it by phone at 1-800-447-8477 (1-800-HHS-TIPS), or E-Mail at HHSTips@oig.hhs.gov. To report Medicaid fraud in North Carolina, call the North Carolina Medicaid Investigations Division at 919-881-2320.

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