A Minnesota woman who was convicted of Medicaid fraud in 2010 and is now imprisoned in Shakopee has been charged with running an elaborate new scheme to bilk taxpayers out of millions of dollars.
State Attorney General Lori Swanson filed the charges Tuesday against Barbara Currin, 51, and six accomplices, accusing them of running a series of home-care businesses that improperly billed the state's Medical Assistance program for $2.65 million.
The charges, filed in Ramsey County District Court, say the suspects billed Medical Assistance $106,000 to care for an emphysema patient they saw just a handful of times in 2013, and collected more than $500,000 to treat Currin's two brothers on days when they were playing in a bowling league.
They also allege that the suspects provided kickbacks, such as rent money and cigarettes, to patients to get them to cooperate, and falsified time sheets and medical records so patients would qualify for nursing services under Medical Assistance.
Currin is charged with eight counts of either racketeering or theft by swindle, with each count carrying a maximum prison term of 20 years.
Currin was convicted of Medical Assistance fraud charges in 2010 and banned from the program for 10 years. But Swanson said at a Wednesday news conference that she had accomplices front the nursing businesses while she directed activity behind the scenes.
Currin was jailed recently at the Minnesota women's prison in Shakopee for violating her parole by engaging in a Medical Assistance business, authorities said. She allegedly ran operations for more than three years beginning in 2012, when she was said to have collected nearly $300,000 in cash payments and other financial benefits, such as two Cadillacs.
"It's an affront to the taxpayers who fund the system" for caring for the poor and infirm, Swanson said. She added that it's unclear how much money can be recovered.
The attorney general's office executed 18 search warrants and combed through hundreds of thousands of documents to reveal the fraud, Swanson said. E-mails helped crack a case that might have been unsolvable in the days before a digital paper trail, Swanson said.
Among the e-mails recovered by investigators, documents allege that Currin boasted she would "personally make millions in this game as before."
It's also alleged that Currin used accomplices, aliases and various other methods to shield herself from investigative eyes. When investigators searched locations, Swanson said, they could find no documentation to support the medical billing.
"What we did find was documentation about how to fake documentation," she said.
In one instance, investigators uncovered a ruse to rent a storage locker and then to claim that records stored there to support the medical billing had been lost.
The suspects all refused to be interviewed by investigators, Swanson said.