Rutledge Settles First State Civil False Claims Lawsuit in 15 Years
April 12, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has settled a lawsuit against Step by Step Senior Care Inc., an Arkansas home health care company. Rutledge filed the lawsuit last summer against the company and its then-operators, Breon Harmon and Clarise Tatum, marking the first false claims lawsuit filed under the state’s false claims act in 15 years. The settlement includes a civil penalty of $239,788.58, which is the largest known civil penalty against an Arkansas home health care company in the history of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
“As Arkansas’s chief legal officer, I am committed to using all means necessary to hold not just individuals but also companies accountable for Medicaid fraud,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I filed this lawsuit so that Step by Step Senior Care Inc. and its owners would be held accountable for their deception. Today’s settlement should also alert other health care companies that fraudulent actions are a serious offense which I will fully investigate and take legal action if necessary.”
Today’s settlement provides that Step by Step Senior Care Inc. will repay the Arkansas Medicaid Program Trust Fund the $479,577.16 that was questioned in an audit conducted by the Office of Medicaid Inspector General and a negotiated civil penalty of $239,788.58, for a total of $719,365.74. The total will be reduced by $6,838.08 that has already been collected from Dawna Kincade. The settlement also allows greater monitoring of Step by Step Senior Care Inc. in the future and prohibits Harmon and Tatum from working with the company for five years.
In June 2014, the Office of Medicaid Inspector General conducted an audit of Step by Step Senior Care Inc. The audit found evidence of fraud and many questionable billing practices. In March 2015, the audit was referred to the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit where a subsequent investigation resulted in criminal charges being filed against Kincade, a Step by Step employee.
On Feb. 25, 2015, Kincade of Little Rock entered a guilty plea on one count of Medicaid fraud, a Class B felony. She falsified billing documents for a Medicaid recipient. The case was prosecuted by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in cooperation with 6th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley. Kincade paid $6,838.08 in restitution to the Arkansas Medicaid Program Trust Fund prior to entry of her guilty plea. She was then sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay court costs and a $7,500 fine payable to the general revenue fund.
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 email@example.com.