Two with local nursing home company accused of Medicaid fraud
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 10:45 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 2:54 p.m.
Two top officials at a Gainesville-based nonprofit nursing home management company were arrested this week and accused of defrauding Medicaid of more than $2.75 million to pay themselves and to cover expenses such as mortgages, utility bills and cellphone service.
CEO Maxcine Darville, 79, and her daughter, Assistant CEO Joanne Carter, 59, of the Council on Aging of Florida were each charged with one count of organized scheme to defraud, according to the state Attorney General's Office.
The Council on Aging of Florida is connected with the 180-bed Gainesville Health Care Center at 1311 SW 16th St., according to its website. That location, which is directly south of the Shands Cancer Hospital, is Darville's corporate address, state records show.
The council also oversees Riverfront Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and the Verandas at Riverfront, both in Bradenton, along with Glades Health Care Facility in Pahokee.
The company is not affiliated with the Florida Council on Aging.
The state alleges that between January 2006 and March 2012, Darville and Carter used Medicaid program payments for excessive salaries for themselves and Darville's son, Gary Watson, also employed by the Council on Aging of Florida.
The portion of their salaries found to be fraudulent exceeded $1.8 million during the six-year period, according to the arrest affidavit provided by the attorney general's office.
Other fraudulent expenses include mortgage and car payments, Internet service, utility bills, cellphone service, travel expenses, gas, food and personal long distance calls.
These expenses were filed as expenses related to the Council, but a review of the monthly board meetings showed that none of the expenses were ever discussed or voted on, according to the affidavit.
It states that testimony provided by former Chief Financial Officer Jim Ecklof discussed employee travel and reimbursements, citing "two different sets of rules; one that pertained to Darville, Carter and Watson, and one that pertained to all other employees," the affidavit quoted Ecklof as testifying. He also said that Darville never presented the travel policy he came up with to the board.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement Tuesday, "We will not allow those who are entrusted with providing legitimate Medicaid services and accurately billing the program to exploit the system. We will continue to protect taxpayers' dollars by investigating and prosecuting those who commit Medicaid fraud."
The warrant arrests of Darville and Carter were made Monday in conjunction with the Alachua County Sheriff's Office. Darville and Carter have been released on bond. If convicted, they each face up to 30 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
Gary Watson has not been arrested. A spokesman from the attorney general's office said that based on evidence they have, "Mr. Watson benefited from the fraudulent activity and the investigation is continuing."
Attorney Robert Griscti of Gainesville, who is representing Darville, and Mark Seiden of Miami, representing Carter, released a statement Tuesday on their behalf.
"During the period of the investigation, both Ms. Darville and Ms. Carter voluntarily cooperated with state authorities and will continue to do so. However, they both strongly deny any wrongdoing and intend to fight the case until they are exonerated and their good names are cleared," the statement said.
Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.