Louisiana: 12 plead not guilty to Medicare fraud

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Twelve people have pleaded innocent to charges involving Medicare fraud in Baton Rouge federal court.

Their pleas were entered Wednesday shortly after prosecutors announced they planned to use evidence from a separate alleged $4.2 million fraud case against five of the defendants.

Named defendants in both cases are Henry Lamont Jones, 36, and his former wife, Chikenna D. Jones, 35, both of Zachary.

Also charged in both cases are Dr. Jo A. Francis, 60, of Natchez, Miss., and two Baton Rouge residents, Stephanie V. Dangerfield, 50, and Mary H. Griffin, 52.

The first indictment was returned in July and accuses those five people and nine others of conspiring to fraudulently bill Medicare for $18.9 million between June 2004 and October 2009.

The second case was filed under seal in February and targets the Joneses, Francis, Dangerfield, Griffin and Shedrick O. McKenzie.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said McKenzie's age and city of residence were not immediately available Wednesday.

Justice Department attorneys David M. Maria and Ben Curtis identified McKenzie in court filings as the owner and operator, with the Joneses, of McKenzie Healthcare Solutions Inc.

That Mississippi firm was used to submit $9.1 million in bogus claims to Medicare for medical equipment for elderly, blind or other disabled patients, the prosecutors alleged.

Medicare paid $4.2 million of those false claims, Maria and Curtis wrote.

Francis, the Natchez physician, is alleged in the indictment and other filings by Maria and Curtis to have accepted kickbacks in return for writing prescriptions for medically unnecessary equipment.

Griffin and Dangerfield are identified in the indictment and other prosecution filings as recruiters hired by the Joneses and McKenzie to locate physicians and patients willing to participate in the alleged fraudulent scheme.

McKenzie was not in the hearing Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christine Noland.

Other defendants who pleaded innocent Wednesday in the larger case included alleged Baton Rouge recruiters Karen Rayburn, 46; Mary Bessie, 81; Beulah Richardson, 46; Rodney Taylor, 45; and Stephanie Williams, 38.

Also pleading innocent were Dr. Sofjan M. Lamid, 82, of Mandeville, and Robert Foster, whose age and city of residence were not provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Louisiana companies used in the alleged larger scheme were Healthcare 1 LLC, Lifeline Healthcare Services Inc. and Medical 1 Patient Services LLC.

Published: Fri, Apr 8, 2011