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Date of Issue: March 02, 2007

7 arrested at Acute Care facility in Anna Maria








Agents from the Florida Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Unit in Tampa on Feb. 23 arrested seven women who worked at the Acute Care facility office on Gulf Drive and charged them with $2.6 million in counterfeit billing claims.

Arrested were Acute Care owners Jeanne Ferguson and Nancy Wood, along with Heidi Rickert, Andrea Suarez, Carla Camacho, Stephanie Nichols and Cynthia May. The women were not arrested at the Anna Maria office, but at various locations including at home.

According to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, Acute Care defrauded the state Medicaid program out of more than $2.6 million in counterfeit billing claims during an unspecified period.

The company came under investigation in April 2006 after the MFU received information that Acute Care, which provides respiratory therapy to children, was submitting substantial billing claims to the Medicaid program that could not be verified by the patients' parents. Parents of at least one child reportedly told investigators they had received only one visit from the therapist in a single week, while Acute Care was billing Medicaid for several visits.

In addition, said McCollum, other staff at the facility claim they were pressured to falsify billing for patients they knew were never treated.

MFU agents raided the company's office in Anna Maria in December 2006 and carted off a substantial amount of records, but declined to confirm any ongoing investigation at that time.

Each of the women arrested was charged with one count of Medicaid fraud, a third-degree felony, and one count of organized fraud, a first-degree felony. If convicted on both counts, each of the women face a maximum of 30 years in prison and a fine of $15,000. The women were booked into the Manatee County jail and later released pending prosecution of the case. The state attorney's office for the 12th Judicial Circuit in Bradenton will prosecute.

Acute Care Inc. was formed in Anna Maria in 1996 and operated at a Pine Avenue location until moving to the former U.S. Post Office building at 9908 Gulf Drive several years ago.

In addition to providing respiratory therapy to children, the company also provides medical equipment such as hospital beds, electric wheelchairs, orthopedic equipment and a host of other personal medical needs.