Bracker & Marcus Client Latashia Hawkins Awarded 23% Relator’s Share
We are proud to announce that the United States and the State of Georgia have intervened in a False Claims Act lawsuit filed on behalf of our client, Latashia Hawkins. Her allegations have been settled for $750,000.
Learn more about the settlement and call one of our healthcare fraud attorneys for more information.
Whistleblower Alleges Medicare, Medicaid Fraud
Ms. Hawkins reported that her employer, OGCC Behavioral Health Services Inc., and its executive director had defrauded the Medicare and Medicaid programs by falsifying the identity and qualifications of its provider.
The purpose was to receive reimbursement at a higher rate, inflating the amount of time spent with patients, documenting face-to-face contact with patients that never occurred, misrepresenting dates of service, and creating fabricated documents in response to government scrutiny.
Defendants acknowledged that the government has a claim for over $38 million, but the final judgment was based on their limited ability to pay a settlement.
It has been a long journey to get to this point. Ms. Hawkins is one of our firm’s earliest clients, filing her False Claims Act complaint in December 2015. We have an enormous amount of admiration for what she has done.
Over the last six-plus years, she has gone through numerous trials and tribulations, but whenever the government called upon her, she responded, even going so far as to wear a wire for the FBI to record the defendants engaged in wrongdoing.
In sum, Ms. Hawkins is a remarkable woman. After she brought these claims to the government’s attention, she went back to work for OGCC and reported every new fraud and cover-up for another two years.
Although management was seeking to “out” the whistleblower, she stayed until health issues caused by the immense stress forced her to resign. The government recognized her immense contributions, and by agreement, Ms. Hawkins will receive a 23% relator’s share of the $750,000 recovery.
Behavioral Health Provider Enjoyed Vacations, Parties While Denying Care
The alarming tales that arose from this case are too numerous to recount. Children with severe mental health issues who had been promised care were turned away at the door because they were deemed “not profitable.”
Parties late into the night where staff drank champagne while they falsified patient records for upcoming audits.
The oft-repeated slogan “no coins left on the table.”
Elaborate beach vacations purchased with the ill-gotten gains of fraudulent billing.
OGCC is a cautionary tale for individuals who get into behavioral health simply to line their own pockets.
Although this ability-to-pay settlement is relatively small in the world of False Claims Act cases, it sends an important message.
“It’s disturbing when health care providers accept Medicare and Medicaid money meant to pay for the care of vulnerable patients, when in reality the providers either provided no services at all or otherwise misrepresented their services in order to steal from federal healthcare programs,” said Tamala E. Miles, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.
“We will continue to hold dishonest health care providers accountable in order to ensure patients receive quality care and that taxpayer-funded programs are billed appropriately.”
“This settlement will serve to hold OGCC and Huffman accountable for stealing from Medicaid and the taxpayers of Georgia,” said FBI Acting Special Agent-In-Charge Philip Wislar. “These funds were intended to support citizens with mental health needs but were instead diverted to greedy fraudsters. The FBI encourages brave whistleblowers like Ms. Hawkins to continue to come forward to report such crimes to law enforcement.”
Are you a potential whistleblower? Contact a healthcare fraud attorney now.
Bracker & Marcus would like to thank Assistant U.S. Attorney Austin Hall, Georgia Assistant Attorney General Sara Vann, and the entire team that worked on this case for their diligent efforts in investigating and resolving this case. This resolution was a long time coming, but it was well worth the wait.
The case is captioned United States and State of Georgia ex rel. Hawkins v. OGCC Behavioral Health Services, Inc., No. 1:15-cv-4380 (N.D. Ga.).
The federal government’s official press release can be found here. The Georgia Attorney General’s tweet about the settlement can be found here. The Fulton County Daily Report article about the settlement can be found here (subscription only).
If you are aware of a healthcare provider billing for services not rendered or falsifying records to avoid repaying money to the government, please contact our firm for a free evaluation.