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Date of Issue: September 27, 2007

Acute Care seven down to six

The seven women from Acute Care in Anna Maria charged in February with Medicaid fraud are now just six.

Loren Burns of the Florida state attorney’s office in Bradenton said one of the original seven arrested, Stephanie Nichols, 53, of Bradenton, has agreed to testify against the other six women in return for a plea bargain agreement that will keep her out of jail - and possibly put the remaining six in.

In exchange for her Sept. 17 plea of no contest and her cooperation and testimony against the remaining six defendants, including Acute Care owners Jeanne Ferguson and Nancy Wood, Nichols will be given five and 15 years of probation for each of the two charges against her. In addition, she will have to perform community service and pay an as-yet undetermined amount to the State of Florida, Burns indicated. Without the plea bargain, Nichols was facing a maximum sentence of 30 years.

Ferguson and Wood, both Holmes Beach residents, along with Bradenton residents Heidi Rickert, Andrea Suarez, Carla Camacho and Cynthia May, each are charged with filing nearly $2.7 million in bogus Medicaid claims with the state of Florida. All six have entered not guilty pleas and a trial date is set for 8:30 a.m. Dec. 3 before Judge Diana Morland.

Each of the women have been charged with one count of Medicaid fraud, a third-degree felony, and one count of organized fraud, a third-degree felony. If convicted on both counts, the women face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine of $15,000.