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Former owner of Rayville personal care agency pleads guilty in Medicaid fraud case

The former owner of a Rayville personal care services agency pleaded guilty on Thursday to defrauding the state’s Medicaid program, announced Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

Patricia A. Bell, 52, of 111 Alabama Street, Rayville, was charged by bill of information in the Fifth Judicial District Court. Bell pleaded guilty to one count of Medicaid fraud and agreed to pay $848,765.23 in restitution to the Medicaid program, $200,000 in civil monetary penalties, $50,000 in costs of investigation and prosecution, as well as all court costs associated with her unlawful conduct. Bell has also agreed to be excluded from participating as a provider in the Medicaid program.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said, “Medicaid fraud steals tax dollars, robs funds intended for needed care, and drives up health care costs for all of us. My Medicaid Fraud Control Unit will continue its efforts to crack down on fraud and ensure that everyone plays by the rules.”

“We work closely with our partners at the Attorney General’s Office to identify fraud in the Medicaid system,” said William Root, Chief Compliance Officer at DHH who oversees the Medicaid Program Integrity Office. “When we identify potential fraud cases, like this one, we refer them to the AG's team for further investigation and prosecution. The citizens of Louisiana expect us to ensure their tax dollars are used wisely, especially for programs that provide critical services to thousands of Louisiana residents and children.”

As a Medicaid provider, Bell operated a personal care services agency called Cookies Helping Hand, Inc. with locations in Rayville and Crowville. Personal care service agencies provide home care services to eligible Medicaid recipients. All home care aids providing the home care services must pass a statewide background check conducted prior to becoming an eligible caregiver. As a result of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s investigation, it was discovered that Ms. Bell falsified multiple background checks to make it appear as if she was in compliance with program rules requiring background checks be conducted on all home care aids. It was also discovered that she billed Medicaid for services not actually rendered to recipients.

At the time of Bell’s arrest in July 2011, the Department of Health and Hospitals announced that it had terminated its Medicaid agreement with her agency.

Today’s guilty plea is a result of an investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Assistant Attorneys General Lacey Hebert and Nicholas Diez prosecuted the case.

To report suspected Medicaid Fraud, please contact the Louisiana Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit at 888-799-6885.

Coming soon, the attorney's general office seeks to provide a mechanism by which to take online payments for collections.