News Releases

    Rutledge Announces a Guilty Plea by the CEO and Owner of New Beginnings Behavioral Health Services


    July 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 oag@arkansasag.gov.

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