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For Immediate Release
September 14, 2005
Media Contact:
Kevin Enright 410-576-6357

HUSBAND AND WIFE PLEAD GUILTY TO MEDICAID FRAUD


Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that Joycelyn Peterson and Ralph Peterson, formerly of Carroll Mill Road in Howard County, Maryland, pled guilty to felony Medicaid Fraud for billing Medicaid for more than $200,000 for prenatal nutritional counseling they did not provide. Joycelyn Peterson, 56, was the founder and owner of the Vegetarian Institute of Nutrition and Culinary Arts, known as VINCA. VINCA provided nutritional counseling to high risk pregnant women in Montgomery County. Ralph Peterson, 57, was in charge of the billings for the company. Each defendant pled guilty in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County to one count of felony Medicaid fraud. The Honorable Wanda Keyes Heard sentenced Joycelyn Peterson to five years in jail, all suspended, and placed Ms. Peterson on five years probation with a special condition that she spend nine months in home detention. In addition, pursuant to the plea agreement, Ms. Peterson paid $103,000 in restitution and a penalty of $103,000. Ralph Peterson received the same sentence and also paid $206,000 in rsetitution, with the additional requirement that he perform 1,000 hours of community service during his period of probation.

During the years 2002 through 2003, the Petersons, who now reside in Highland, California, billed the Medical Assistance program for more than $360,000 for providing nutritional counseling to high risk pregnant women. VINCA billed for more than 9,000 such counseling sessions. In fact, during that period, VINCA performed only about 2,000 counseling sessions; nearly $200,000 of the billings were for services that were never rendered.

After each actual counseling session, VINCA’s nutritional counselors filled out an information worksheet that included a patient’s name, Medicaid number and the first date of the visit for the client. VINCA took the information from the form and billed Medicaid for five visits when only one occurred. Further, VINCA’s work schedules showed that VINCA was closed on Mondays and Fridays, yet VINCA billed hundreds of sessions on Mondays and Fridays. In January 2003, for example, VINCA billed for 204 visits on Fridays alone.

The investigation also discovered that VINCA did not have more than three counselors working on any given day. These counselors saw Medicaid and non-Medicaid women, usually no more than six clients in a particular day. During 2002-2003, however, VINCA billed an average of 27 Medicaid visits a day, sometimes as many as 55 a day, while actually seeing fewer than 13 Medicaid recipients a day.

The Petersons paid a total of $412,000 at the time of sentencing, which is twice the amount of the fraud.

These cases were prosecuted by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of Maryland Attorney General’s Office following a referral from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
 

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