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Post date: October 17 2007

Attorney General Cuomo Announces Arrest Of Three Central New York Home Care Nurses In False Billing Scheme

SYRACUSE, NY (October 17, 2007) Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the arrests of three home care nurses charged with bilking the Medicaid system for nearly $200,000 in fraudulent claims.

The three defendants allegedly billed Medicaid for the care of their patient during times when they were out of the country on vacation, when the patient was receiving care from her parents, and when the patient was in the care of another nurse.

"We have uncovered too much fraud in home health care, and for both the patients who count on that care and the taxpayers who pay for it, any amount is unacceptable," Attorney General Cuomo said. "Protecting the sanctity of our public health care system is a priority of this office, and we will continue to pursue that priority."

Registered nurse Anna Reid, 57, of Barnes Ave., Syracuse, and Licensed Practical Nurse Suzan Sheldon, 41, of Bacon St., Syracuse, were arraigned yesterday in Syracuse City Court before the Honorable Timothy Higgins. Licensed Practical Nurse Michele Schug, 33, of Sutton Drive, Cicero was arraigned yesterday evening in the Town of Cicero Justice Court before the Honorable Robert S. Walczyk, Jr. They Ried waswere charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, and Sheldon and Schug were charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree for claims they submitted to Medicaid that prosecutors say were false.

All three defendants cared for the same patient at various times between 2001 and 2005. The patient is a young adult with cerebral degeneration and pulmonary collapse, and requires around the clock home care nursing services. Because the patient's parents provided at least eight hours of care daily, the nurses routinely split up among themselves the billing for those hours. It was when two nurses submitted bills for the same set of hours that the fraud was exposed.

Complaints about the nurses' billings prompted an investigation by the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. The ensuing investigation and audit found nearly $200,000 in payments for services that were not rendered. These included claims submitted for hours when the patient was on vacation or in the care of another nurse, and claims for hours in excess of what was actually worked. The false claims allegedly included:

  • $66,322.09 wrongfully paid to defendant Sheldon;
  • $77,259.77 wrongfully paid to defendant Schug; and
  • $18,813.76 wrongfully paid to defendant Reid.

If convicted they face restitution of the ill-gotten wages plus a maximum penalty of 15 years, in the case of Schug and Sheldon, and 7 years for Reid.

The charges against the defendants are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Cuomo urged families to be attentive to the health services provided to their loved ones, and encouraged New Yorkers who suspect cases of Medicaid fraud to call the Attorney General's complaint hotline at 800-771-7755.

Attorney General Cuomo is in Syracuse today with over 20 members of his senior staff for a series of meetings with local and regional officials, and to hold a public forum to discuss issues important to Central New Yorkers. The Attorney General's Community Partnerships Initiative is aimed at heightening the office's responsiveness to local and regional concerns, and to expand the role of the office as what Cuomo calls a "large public-interest law firm."

The public forum will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, October 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium of Nottingham High School. It is free and open to the public and members of the media.