NewsEvents

Rutledge Announces Arrest of New Beginnings Health Services Owner for Medicaid Fraud and Tax Evasion

Failing to report contracts with Milton “Rusty” Cranford, Robin Raveendran, and her former husband Michael Grimes

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced today the arrest of the owner and CEO of New Beginnings Behavioral Health Services LLC, Chirie Bazzelle.

Bazzelle, 46, of Benton, is accused of failing to report contracts with Milton “Rusty” Cranford, Robin Raveendran, and her former husband Michael Grimes who is a convicted felon. She is also accused of continuing the employment of individuals who had been convicted of Medicaid fraud and ignoring additional Medicaid fraud claims of other employees. Bazzelle has been listed as the sole owner of New Beginnings Behavioral Health Services in Pulaski County since 2010. Bazzelle is also accused of attempting to evade taxes from January 2014 through February 2019.

“Bad actors who have their hands in the taxpayer cookie jar must be held accountable,” says Attorney General Rutledge

In June, Rutledge announced the arrest of former Preferred Family Healthcare Director of Program Integrity and Director of Operations, Raveendran, for scamming the Arkansas Medicaid Program of $2.2 million. Raveendran is also a former Senior Auditor with Arkansas’s Medicaid Program Integrity Unit. In August, Rutledge announced the arrest of former Preferred Family Healthcare Director of Billing, Helen Balding, for similar actions. In October, Rutledge announced the arrest of Vicki Chisam who is accused of being an accomplice to Raveendran, Balding and other individuals known and unknown to the Office of the Attorney General.

The Attorney General’s office was assisted in this investigation by the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General and will be prosecuted in cooperation with 6th Judicial Prosecutor Larry Jegley.

Medicaid fraud occurs when providers use the Medicaid program to obtain money to which they are not entitled. To report Medicaid fraud or abuse or neglect in residential care facilities, contact the Attorney General’s Medicaid fraud hotline at (866) 810-0016 or oag@arkansasag.gov.

Rutledge Announces Arkansas Suit Against Opioid Distributors

Says, ‘another step in a deliberate approach to address this devastating crisis’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced she has filed a lawsuit against opioid distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation on behalf of the State of Arkansas.

“Today’s action is another step in a deliberate approach to address this devastating crisis,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Drug distributors are required by law to report suspicious shipments of opioids, but many have failed to do so, despite often obvious absurd shipment requests. These distributors have flooded Arkansas with nearly 67 dosage units for every man, woman and child which has ensured the availability of a more-than-adequate supply of opioids to fuel the crisis in our State.”

This lawsuit is the latest step in Rutledge’s multifaceted approach to solving the opioid crisis, which has devastated families across Arkansas and the country.

Opioid distributors have the responsibility of ensuring that medications are only distributed and dispensed to appropriate patients and not diverted to unauthorized users. But these users failed to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of opioids, ultimately contributing to and creating a national and statewide emergency.

Rutledge is suing the opioid distributors who enabled the problem in Arkansas for violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act as well as for negligence, creation of a public nuisance and for being unjustly enriched by their business practices.

Rutledge has been a leader in the State and nation combatting the opioid epidemic by using a multifaceted approach through education, litigation, treatment and enforcement. Her first-in-the-nation Prescription for Life program is free for high schools and over the last year has reached 67 counties and almost 13,800 students. In November, the Attorney General hosted the annual Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit with record attendance, which provided training and educational opportunities for law enforcement, medical professionals, pharmacists and educators. Rutledge has taken an aggressive approach to protect Arkansans and combat the epidemic by suing Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma and Endo for violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Arkansas Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act.

Rutledge: State Receives $55 Million in Tobacco Settlement Funds

Bringing more than $1 billion total for public health programs

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has secured the 2019 share of proceeds from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with tobacco companies. More than 20 years ago, 46 states and numerous other jurisdictions entered into a historic, multibillion dollar agreement to settle consumer-protection lawsuits for the costs that they had incurred for treating the negative health effects of smoking.

“The funds from the Master Settlement Agreement are important to the overall health and welfare of Arkansans,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I am proud to continue to enforce the tobacco statutes and secure the State’s disbursement from the agreement. This money funds smoking cessation programs, health care research and the Arkansas Medicaid program, which are all vital resources for a number of Arkansas families and children.”

This year’s disbursement of $ 55,375,060.96 brings the total amount received since 2001 to fund various public health programs in Arkansas to $1,059,678,391.78.

The MSA imposed health-related and advertising restrictions on tobacco companies. Additionally, the agreement requires the settling manufacturers to make annual payments to the settling states.

The Attorney General is tasked with enforcing the tobacco statutes that were enacted pursuant to the MSA. This enforcement includes operation of a certification process for tobacco manufacturers, ongoing quarterly and annual reporting, maintaining an Approved-For-Sale Directory, conducting audits, collection of escrow amounts and investigation or even litigation should violations of the tobacco statutes occur.

In 2000, Arkansas voters created the Tobacco Settlement Act, which governs how the funds received under the settlement are used. Payments are placed into the Tobacco Settlement Program Fund for later distribution to the programs supported by the settlement payments, including the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, an agricultural and medical research consortium; the Medicaid Expansion Program, which provides Medicaid coverage for pregnant women and increases hospital benefits for Medicaid beneficiaries; the Prevention and Cessation Program, which aims to reduce tobacco use; and the Targeted State Needs Program, which includes support for public health programs for minorities, older Arkansans and residents of rural areas and the Delta.

Rutledge Announces May Mobile Office Schedule

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced mobile office locations for May.

Attorney General Rutledge created this initiative during her first year in office to increase office accessibility for all Arkansans, particularly to those who live outside the capital city. Office hours were held in all 75 counties each year during her first term, assisting 3,300 Arkansans.

Rutledge believes face-to-face conversations are the best way to truly hear from Arkansans. The Attorney General Mobile Offices assist constituents with consumer related issues by filing consumer complaints against scam artists as well as answering questions about the office and the other services it offers to constituents.

Rutledge continues her partnerships with the Cooperative Extension Service and local law enforcement across Arkansas. Law enforcement officials will be on hand to collect unused and expired prescription medications to ensure they are secured and properly disposed. Arkansans are encouraged to bring their old, unused or expired prescription medications to an upcoming mobile office. During Rutledge’s first term, over 618 pounds of medications were collected at mobile offices.

For more information about services provided by the Attorney General’s office, visit ArkansasAG.gov or call (501) 682-2007. Rutledge can also be found on Facebook at facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge and on Twitter at twitter.com/AGRutledge.

The upcoming mobile office schedule is below:

Washington County

Thursday, May 2

10:30 a.m. to noon

Springdale Senior Center

203 Park St.

Springdale, AR 72764

Independence County

Friday, May 3

10:30 a.m. to noon

Independence County Senior Center

1590 E. College Ave.

Batesville, AR 72501

Lee County

Tuesday, May 7

10:00 to 11:30 a.m.

Lee County Courthouse

15 E. Chestnut St.

Marianna, AR 72360

Yell County

Wednesday. May 8

10:00 to 11:30 a.m.

Leon Millsap Senior Activity Center

1301 E. 8th St.

Danville, AR 72833

Poinsett County

Thursday, May 9

10:00 to 11:30 a.m.

St. Bernarnds Senior Life Center - Harrisburg

300 Fairground St.

Harrisburg, AR 72432

Columbia County

Tuesday, May 14

10:00 to 11:30 a.m.

Columbia County Nutrition Center

600 Lelia St.

Magnolia, AR 71753

Lafayette County

Monday, May 20

9:45 to 11:15 a.m.

Lafayette County Senior Citizens Center

228 Church St.

Stamps, AR 71860

Montgomery County

Thursday, May 30

10 00 to 11:30 a.m.

Mount Ida Senior Activity Center

158 Senior Drive

Mount Ida, AR 71957

Rutledge Announces Dumas Woman Sentenced for Medicaid Fraud

Says, ‘Shirley Owens took advantage of a vital resource’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced a Desha County woman has pleaded guilty to theft of property by deception for caring for her husband, the patient, which is conduct that would make her ineligible to be paid by the Medicaid program.

“Shirley Owens took advantage of a vital resource by being illegally paid to care for her husband,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Medicaid is an important safety net for many, and what Owens did was take money and services away from another deserving Arkansan.”

Owens, 63, of Dumas, pleaded guilty to a form of Medicaid fraud involving theft of property by deception, a Class C felony, between December 2016 and July 2017. A Medicaid fraud investigation revealed that Owens and her husband, the Medicaid recipient had married in January 2006. She was ordered to pay $5,364 in restitution to the Arkansas Medicaid Program Trust Fund.

This case was referred to the Arkansas Attorney General’s office by the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General and prosecuted in coordination with Sixth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley.

Medicaid fraud occurs when providers use the Medicaid program to obtain money to which they are not entitled. To report Medicaid fraud or abuse or neglect in residential care facilities, contact the Attorney General’s Medicaid fraud hotline at (866) 810-0016 or oag@arkansasag.gov.

Rutledge Joins Coalition Supporting New WOTUS Rule

Says, ‘Obama-era rule was never about protecting our water in a responsible way’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today joined 16 other states in submitting a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers in support of the proposed revisions to define the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).

“The overreaching Obama-era rule was never about protecting our water in a responsible way, and their action had disastrous implications for Arkansas farmers,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The proposed revisions return the EPA to its core mission of environmental enforcement, pollution mitigation and disaster cleanup.”

The comment letter from Rutledge and her colleagues is part of the efforts to repeal the Obama-administration rule which allowed the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to assert federal authority over a vast number of small bodies of water, including roadside ditches, short-lived streams and any other area where water may flow once every 100 years.

In 2017, President Donald J. Trump directed a review of the WOTUS definition. And in February, a new rule was proposed which would not only rescind the unlawful Obama-era rule, but would also promulgate a new definition of WOTUS which would restore an understanding that is faithful to the text of the Clean Water Act.

Rutledge is part of a coalition that helped secure a nationwide injunction blocking enforcement of the rule in August 2015, allowing the new administration to review the rule. She also testified in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in March 2015 urging the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the Obama-era rule because of the negative impact it would have on Arkansas farmers.

Rutledge joined attorneys general from Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah in signing the letter, which was led by the attorney general from West Virginia.

April
25
Thursday

Logan County Resources Day

Booneville Senior Center
545 Heritage Drive

Mobile Office
11 to 12:30 p.m.

Prescription Drug Take Back
Partnering with Sheriff Jason Massey
11 to 12:30 p.m.

Identity Theft and Senior Scams Presentation
11 to 11:30 a.m.

 11:00 AMVIEW 
April
29
Monday

Retiree Resources - Jonesboro

Retiree Resources

9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Jonesboro First Baptist Church
701 South Main Street
Register

Senior adults are invited to hear presentations about:

  • Consumer protection tips
  • Home care resources
  • Identity theft
  • Prescription drug disposal
  • Senior scams
  • Telemarketing fraud

Lunch will be provided. For questions or to register by phone, call (501) 682-2007.

 9:00 AMVIEW 
April
30
Tuesday

Benton County Resources Day

Benton County Senior Activity Center
3501 Southeast L Street, Bentonville

Mobile Office
10 to 11:30 a.m.

Prescription Drug Take Back
Partnering with Sheriff Shawn Holloway
10 to 11:30 a.m.

Identity Theft and Scam Presentation
11 to 11:30 a.m.

 10:00 AMVIEW 
May
2
Thursday

Washington County Resource Day

Springdale Senior Center
203 Park Street

Mobile Office
10:30 a.m. to noon

Prescription Drug Take Back
Partnering with Sheriff Tim Helder
10:30 a.m. to noon

Identity Theft and Scam Presentation
11:30 a.m. to noon

 10:30 AMVIEW 
May
7
Tuesday

Lee County Resource Day

Lee County Courthouse
15 East Chestnut Street, Marianna

Mobile Office
10 to 11:30 a.m.

Prescription Drug Take Back
Partneringn with Sheriff Ocie Banks
10 to 11:30 a.m.

Identity Theft and Scam Presentation
11 to 11:30 a.m.

 10:00 AMVIEW 
May
8
Wednesday

Yell County Resources Day

Leon Millsap Senior Activity Center
1301 East 8th Street, Danville

Mobile Office
10 to 11:30 a.m.

Prescription Drug Take Back
Partnering with Sheriff Bill Gilkey
10 to 11:30 a.m.

Identity Theft and Scam Presentation
10 to 10:30 a.m.

 10:00 AMVIEW 
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