A whistleblower who filed a False Claims Act lawsuit against one of the country’s largest private prison companies claims an Ohio residential treatment center for teens fraudulently billed Medicaid for counseling sessions that never happened.
Whistleblower Lynn Rocroft spoke to WKYC Channel 3 News about rampant fraud she alleges occurred at Abraxas Ohio in Shelby, an all-male treatment center owned and operated by GEO Group Inc.
Ms. Roycroft, who has more than three decades of counseling experience, started working for Abraxas in 2008. She told WKYC that fraud at the center “was totally out of control when I got there.”
In addition to “false and fraudulent” billing, Ms. Roycroft claims that Abraxas hired blue-collar workers such as plumbers and roofers, gave them one week of training, and then had them serve as professional counselors for about 100 teens housed at the Richland County facility. She claimed Abraxas misrepresented the credentials and qualifications of those counselors, including on forms it sent to the Medicaid program.
She also said counselors spent more time “controlling behaviors” of teens rather than providing any kind of drug or alcohol abuse counseling.
“The philosophy of the institution was to get as many kids in there as you could and bill [Medicaid] your three hours of group [counseling] a day, whether the groups happened or not,” Roycroft told WKYC. “To me, it’s just blatant fraud.”
Lavonte Hinchen of Cleveland, who spent a total of six months at Abraxas in 2008 and 2009, told WKYC that the treatment center was “a joke.”
“Abraxas felt like a training camp for prison,” he told WKYC. “A lot of the friends I made there…you can look it up, they’re having problems today out on the streets,” Hinchen said. “They don’t know how to handle their problems day to day.”
The lack of counseling and proper staff training meant “a lot of people’s tax dollars went in, but nothing came out of it,” Mr. Hinchen told WKYC.
WKYC reports that Abraxas Ohio received more than $33 million from Medicaid since 2012, including more than $9 million last year alone.
Ms. Roycroft’s lawsuit, pending in an Ohio federal court, seeks to recover an unspecified amount of damages for the U.S. government. She told WKYC that not only did Abraxas defraud U.S. taxpayers, it also caused children and their families to suffer because it deprived them of the help they needed to overcome mental health issues and addictions.
Source: WKYC Channel 3 Cleveland