FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 13, 1999
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that a Prince George's County nurse has pleaded guilty to defrauding the Maryland Medicaid program of nearly $40,000 in connection with a scheme in which she falsely stated she was caring for a two-year-old child with a tracheostomy implant. Licensed Practical Nurse Sue Merriweather admitted that she submitted time sheets claiming that she stayed up all night to care for the Baltimore City child when in fact, on many occasions, she never came to the child's home.
Today, Merriweather pleaded guilty to one count of felony Medicaid Health Plan Fraud. Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph P. McCurdy, Jr. sentenced her to serve one year in jail, which was suspended. Merriweather was also ordered to perform 500 hours of community service and to repay $38,352 to the Maryland Medicaid Program and to Prudential HealthCare. Prudential is a managed care organization that paid the false claims submitted by Merriweather pursuant to its agreement to provide health care services to Medicaid patients.
According to the statement of facts, Merriweather was hired as a "stay awake" nurse to monitor the child and guard against the possibility of the child's tacheostomy becoming clogged. For this, she submitted claims stating that she watched over the child for as many as 84 hours a week during weeks when she failed to see the child even once. Still, the Medicaid Health Plan was billed for these phantom nursing services at $23.50 per hour.
"Ms. Merriweather simply billed Medicaid for services she never rendered," said Attorney General Curran. "Instead of fulfilling her role as a vital 'stay awake' nurse, she chose to become a 'stay at home' criminal to the tune of nearly $40,000."
Investigators also learned that the child's mother, who is required to verify Merriweather's services were being provided, accepted money from Merriweather and in turn routinely falsely stated that Merriweather had cared for her daughter. In fact, because Merriweather was at the child's house so infrequently, Merriweather sent the money to the child's mother via Western Union.
The investigation in this case is continuing.