FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 16, 2000
Attorney General J Joseph Curran, Jr., announced today that the owner of a Baltimore County ambulance company was sentenced to serve five years behind bars for defrauding the state's Medicaid program in connection with ambulance rides that were unnecessary or bogus. Millard C. ("Bobby") Sheppard, Jr., was also ordered to make restitution in the amount of $245,000 and to serve five year's probation upon his release from jail. His ambulance company, Progressive Care Ambulance Services, Inc was fined $100,000.
State officials told the Court that Sheppard had routinely billed Medicaid for ambulance transportation that was not needed. Ambulance transportation costs Medicare and Medicaid $300 or more per trip. The Medicaid program will not pay for ambulance transportation if a patient can walk or can be transported in a wheelchair. The state proved that Sheppard billed costly ambulance services for persons who did not qualify for ambulance transportation and, in some cases, walked out of their apartments and into the front seat of the vehicles used by Progressive. Sheppard also billed for transportation services that were never rendered, including hundreds of billings for purportedly transporting a woman three times/week for dialysis after she had received a kidney transplant years earlier and was no longer receiving dialysis.
Sheppard pleaded guilty to felony Medicaid Fraud in September 1999, and sentencing was deferred until today in order to allow Sheppard to sell his assets and pay the restitution. When Sheppard failed to pay even one dollar toward the money owed to the State, the Honorable Judge Thomas J. Bollinger of the Baltimore County Circuit Court ordered Sheppard to serve the maximum allowable sentence. Bollinger stated that evidence presented by the State convinced him that Sheppard, who sold none of his personal assets while awaiting sentencing, could have paid the restitution if he had made a serious effort to do so.
"Medicaid fraud is a serious crime that affects so many people beyond those directly involved, as it drains the system of precious resources that are in place for the many who rely so desperately on them," Attorney General Curran said.
The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit opened the case after receiving a tip from the Baltimore County police. Detectives were investigating Sheppard for possession of a stolen Toyota 4-Runner. Detectives learned that persons who were supposedly ‘stretcher-bound" and whose transportation was billed as an ambulance trip were actually being transported in the stolen vehicle. Suspecting Medicaid fraud, they contacted the Attorney General. Sheppard received a 4 month suspended sentence in connection with a theft charge relating to the stolen vehicle. He is also currently appealing a 9-month jail sentence in connection with drug possession and handgun violations.
This is the third ambulance company owner jailed by the Attorney General's anti-fraud efforts. Ronald High and Gary Jefferson, co-owners of Care Plus Ambulance Service, are presently serving sentences of 30 months and 18 months, respectively.