HomeHome InsurancePhoenix sober living home fraud investigation nets 8 arrests

Phoenix sober living home fraud investigation nets 8 arrests

The sober living home operators made written and verbal agreements with undercover agents to broker patients to behavioral health facilities, court documents said.

PHOENIX — Eight people were arrested after an undercover operation into sober living home insurance fraud in Phoenix, according to court documents. 

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office Health Care Fraud and Abuse section started the investigation mid-October after receiving information from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) inspector general stating the individuals operating the homes were attempting to broker patients to behavioral health clinics in exchange for compensation. 

During the operation, undercover agents represented themselves as owners of a new behavioral health facility in Phoenix which was in need of patients. During the investigation, several undercover visits were made with sober living home operators where deals were negotiated for payment from the undercover agents to the operators in exchange for patients in need of behavioral health services, according to court documents. 

All of the sober living home operators signed written agreements  or verbally agreed with the undercover agents to accept $300 per patient, per day to bring them to the behavioral health service clinic. 

RELATED: Investigation into group home leads to fraud allegations, health department citations after former residents died

The undercover agents then held a fake opening for their non-existent behavioral health clinic on Nov. 16, court paperwork said. The suspects each brought several patients to the opening and were arrested at the scene. 

All were charged with patient/client referral fraud and illegal control of enterprise, both felony charges. Those charged include:

  • Jose Miguel Saturnino-Corrales, 33
  • Julienne Swaka, 49
  • Nasibu Bauni,40: 
  • Pierrette Kagame, 50
  • Vestine Mukarukund, 43
  • Willy Rutaysire, 41
  • Angela Dauz Turgano, 35
  • Jean Bosco Nsabimana, 48

The patients brought to the fictitious clinic opening were offered resources by local and state authorities. 

RELATED: Arizona cutting off funding to over 100 fraudulent medical providers

After the arrests, Mukarukund admitted to receiving more than $300,000 in three months for providing patients to at least six behavioral health clinics. 

These are the most recent arrests in a months-long investigation into insurance fraud in Arizona.  Illegitimate group homes have been taking advantage of vulnerable Native American people and defrauding the state of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.

RELATED: Widespread fraud, scams targeting Native Americans bring tribal members to Phoenix

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs and Attorney General Kris Mayes — who has said authorities believe a Nevada-based criminal syndicate launched the first scams — in May announced they were stepping up an investigation on fraudulent Medicaid billing that begun before they took office in January. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney General’s Office have joined Arizona prosecutors in the probe.

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