Attorney General Tong, DSS Commissioner Gifford Announce $200,000 Settlement and Suspension Agreement with East Hartford Behavioral Health Providers, Resolving False Claims Act Lawsuit
Attorney General William Tong and Connecticut Department of Social Services Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford announced today that an East Hartford company and its owner have agreed to pay $200,000, and will be suspended from participating in the Connecticut Medical Assistance Program (CMAP) for a period of five years, for allegedly engaging in a systematic and persistent pattern of submitting false claims to the CMAP, which includes the state's Medicaid program.
Selina Christian is the owner of The Center of Attention, LLC: No One Left Behind, which conducted business in East Hartford and provided, among other services, psychotherapy, adolescent group-based activities and academic tutoring. Christian was enrolled in the CMAP as a licensed clinical social worker from September 2008 to May 2018, and The Center of Attention was enrolled in the CMAP as a behavioral health group provider from December 2013 to September 2018.
A state investigation, initiated by a fraud referral from the DSS Office of Quality Assurance's Special Investigations Unit, found that from January 2013 through December 2017, Christian and The Center of Attention submitted a high volume of claims to the CMAP for psychotherapy services that were allegedly provided to CMAP patients. The investigation developed evidence that Christian and The Center of Attention routinely and systematically submitted claims that were either never provided to CMAP patients or were for non-psychotherapy services that were not reimbursable by the CMAP.
"The allegations outlined in our complaint describe how Selina Christian and her company, The Center of Attention, LLC, deliberately tried to defraud Connecticut's Medicaid program by engaging in an illegal scheme. We allege that for nearly four years, they falsely billed for services that were never provided to patients. Together with the Department of Social Services and with the assistance from our law enforcement partners, we held these bad actors accountable. We will continue to be vigilant in protecting our taxpayer-funded healthcare programs," said Attorney General Tong.
“This case is another reminder that health care providers who engage in false and fraudulent claims will be investigated thoroughly and will face various penalties. While not representing the vast majority of dedicated Medicaid-enrolled providers, this and similar enforcement actions help safeguard the integrity of our publicly-funded program. We thank Attorney General Tong and his staff, the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and DSS anti-fraud investigators for their outstanding work,” said Social Services Commissioner Gifford.
In April 2018, the Office of the Attorney General filed a lawsuit in state court against Christian and The Center of Attention. The lawsuit alleged that both Christian and The Center of Attention violated the Connecticut False Claims Act and sought civil penalties and treble damages for the alleged misconduct.
In its lawsuit, the state also alleged that Christian and The Center of Attention kept improper patient records, and in an effort to conceal the scheme, altered and falsified records after receiving a subpoena from the state.
Attorney General Tong and Commissioner Gifford thank the state's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in the Office of the Chief State's Attorney for their partnership and assistance in investigating this case.
Anyone with knowledge of suspected fraud or abuse in the public healthcare system is asked to contact the Attorney General’s Antitrust and Government Program Fraud Department at 860-808-5040 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit at 860-258-5986 or by email at email@example.com; or the Department of Social Services fraud reporting hotline at 1-800-842-2155, online at www.ct.gov/dss/reportingfraud, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assistant Attorney General Joshua Jackson, retired Forensic Fraud Examiner Lawrence Marini, Legal Investigator Peter Harrington, and Assistant Attorney General Michael E. Cole, Chief of the Antitrust and Government Program Fraud Department, assisted the Attorney General with this matter.