Rutledge Announces a Guilty Plea by the CEO and Owner of New Beginnings Behavioral Health ServicesTue, Jul 14, 2020
Says, ‘This culture of corruption has run rampant through our Medicaid system and it must be stopped’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced Chirie Bazzelle pleaded guilty to obstructing governmental operations. Bazzelle is the owner and CEO at New Beginnings Behavioral Health Services (New Beginnings). In 2018 alone, New Beginnings billed the Medicaid program over $5.3 million. As a result of this investigation and Bazzelle’s arrest New Beginnings is no longer a Medicaid provider.
“This culture of corruption has rampant through our Medicaid system and it must be stopped,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Bazzelle is another bad actor who should never be allowed to work in our healthcare system and people like her must be removed from their positions.”
Bazzelle, 46, of Benton, failed to report contracts with lobbyist Milton “Rusty” Cranford, and former Department of Human Services Auditor, Robin Raveendran. Cranford, Raveendran and other full time employees of Preferred Family Healthcare secretly helped Bazzelle turn New Beginnings into one of the state’s largest single site mental health providers. She also knowingly concealed the continued employment of at least one individual who had previously been convicted of Medicaid Fraud.
Robin Raveendran, a former state auditor and Preferred Family Healthcare Director of Program Integrity and Director of Operations, is currently charged with two counts of Medicaid fraud, one Class A felony and one Class B felony based on a two year investigation by the Arkansas Attorney General’s office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Both Cranford and Raveendran have pleaded guilty in a parallel federal public corruption case involving Preferred Family Healthcare and former Arkansas legislators.
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 email@example.com.
Rutledge and the U.S. Department of Justice Ask U.S. Supreme Court to Uphold Arkansas’s Medicaid Expansion Program RequirementsTue, Jul 14, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review and uphold the Arkansas Works Medicaid Demonstration Project. The U.S. Department of Justice is also seeking review to uphold Arkansas’s Medicaid expansion project.
“Arkansas Works’ model was designed to encourage able-bodied Arkansans without dependents to transition into the workforce, building a stronger, more resilient connection with their communities,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I appreciate Attorney General Bill Barr hearing from us last week in Arkansas on this issue and as a result, the Department of Justice also filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to allow our pilot program to continue as a way to support Arkansans by enabling recipients to obtain employment in exchange for Medicaid benefits and create a sense of accomplishment by improving their health and financial independence.”
In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to vacate Arkansas Works.
Rutledge Announces Convictions of Conway and West Memphis Men by the Medicaid Fraud Control UnitMon, Jul 13, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the convictions of a Conway man and a West Memphis man for separate abuse and Medicaid fraud charges.
“Anyone who abuses our most vulnerable will be identified and prosecuted,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I want to provide justice for patients and their families and the assurance that, instead of being exploited, their loved ones will receive appropriate medical care from the experts.”
Tevis Carolina, 59, of Conway pleaded guilty to one count of assault in the second degree. Carolina was a caregiver at a human development center. He was sentenced to probation for three months, a $500 fine and court fees. Carolina was observed on September 5, 2019, twice dragging a resident down the hall by the resident’s arm. He was also observed kicking the resident at least once while the resident was on the floor. No injuries were sustained by the resident. Carolina turned himself in to the Conway Police Department on February 14, 2020. This case was prosecuted in coordination with Chuck Clawson, Conway City Attorney.
Gary Robinson, 51, of West Memphis pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor Medicaid fraud requiring him to pay $529 in restitution and a $250 fine to the Medicaid Fraud Program Trust Fund within six months. Robinson was arrested October 2019 after an investigation confirmed that from January 22, 2019, to February 12, 2019, Robinson, who was not eligible for services, unlawfully turned in timesheets claiming to have provided patient care totaling $529.53. This case was referred from the Office of Medicaid Inspector General and was prosecuted in coordination with Sixth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley.
Rutledge Appoints Renae Hudson Deputy Attorney General of Civil Litigation DepartmentFri, Jul 10, 2020
Says Hudson is ‘the perfect choice to fill this leadership role’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced today Renae Ford Hudson of Sherwood was appointed Deputy Attorney General of the Civil Litigation Department. Hudson is a litigator with over 25 years of trial and management experience. She is tasked with handling the day-to-day operations of the department and managing a 20 person team of litigators and legal assistants.
“Renae is the perfect choice to fill this leadership role in the Civil Department,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “She has the experience, skills and the leadership ability to guide this outstanding team of attorneys in and out of the courtroom as they fight to protect Arkansans.”
Prior to joining the Attorney General’s Office in 2003, Hudson spent time practicing in the areas of criminal defense, family law and utility regulation. She also served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law where she taught litigation skills. In addition, she served as a local faculty member for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy Training Program.
Hudson graduated with honors from Arkansas State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and she received a Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law. She is a member of the New Hope Baptist Church in North Little Rock. She is also a member of the Little Rock Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
The Attorney General’s Office Civil Litigation Department handles approximately 500 cases each year in state and federal courts and serves as counsel representing agencies, officials, boards and commissions when they are named as defendants in civil lawsuits. The lawyers also initiate lawsuits when necessary to protect the interests of the State of Arkansas.
Rutledge Praises Easing of Obama Era Lending RuleTue, Jul 7, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement following the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s issuance of a revised final rule that will make credit more accessible to Americans. The CFPB rule reverses restrictions imposed on lenders during the Obama Administration.
“Arkansas law already prohibits the types of loans targeted by this unnecessary Obama era rule,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “While loan sharks continue to be a problem by preying on Arkansans with outlandish terms and repayment conditions, I will continue to enforce Arkansas law to prohibit these types of loans.”
Rutledge Applauds SCOTUS Decision Upholding Protections for Consumers Receiving RobocallsMon, Jul 6, 2020
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991 which prohibits robocalls to cell phones. The Court also ruled that an exception in the TCPA that exclusively allowed robocalls from federal government debt collectors was an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.
“The Supreme Court wisely ruled to protect consumers by upholding federal robocalls protections for Americans.” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansans are fed up with these annoying calls and through my work with the legislature and the Federal Communication Commission, this decision brings us one step closer to permanently hanging up on robocalls.”