Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge sentences former WellCare execs to prison in Medicaid fraud

TAMPA — Three former WellCare executives were sentenced to federal prison Monday for their roles in a scheme to keep Medicaid money for the company that should have been returned to the state.

All three prison terms were far less than what federal sentencing guidelines recommended.

U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. ordered former chief executive officer Todd Farha to serve three years in prison and pay a $50,000 fine. Former chief financial officer Paul L. Behrens received a two-year sentence and former vice president William Kale a sentence of one year, plus one day.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to impose sentences toward the high end of the federal sentencing guidelines, which, in Farha's case, called for a term of 10 to 121/2 years.

Addressing a courtroom packed with the men's families and friends, Moody said he tried to put the case into perspective. He noted that prosecutors' estimate of the loss to the Medicaid program — $30 million — is a fraction of the billions that the state paid the company over that period to manage recipients' health care.

Moody said the men posed no risk of reoffending and had seen their reputations damaged and career prospects dimmed. "No sentences could punish them more than they've already been punished," he said.

The trio remains out on bail pending appeals, due in two weeks. Attorneys for all three said they intended to appeal but also praised the sentencing decisions.

"We are grateful that Judge Moody, in imposing a sentence substantially below what the government sought, recognized the complex circumstances of this case and the true character of the people involved," said Barry Boss, an attorney for Farha.

WellCare received Medicaid money from Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration knowing that if it did not use 80 percent of the funds on services, the difference was to be returned to the state. But, prosecutors say, the executives conspired to inflate what they actually spent to reduce the amount they had to return.

All three men were convicted by a jury last summer on two counts of health care fraud for submitting false expenditure reports to the state Medicaid program in 2006. The jury also found Behrens guilty of two other charges of making false statements related to health care matters.

A fourth defendant, former vice president Peter E. Clay, was found guilty of making false statements to federal agents. He received five years of probation, plus a $10,000 fine.

Before he was sentenced, Farha, 45, told Moody that he realized he'd made "serious mistakes" and regretted the impact on his family. "Never in my life could I imagine I'd be standing here before you," he said.

Kale, whose voice cracked with emotion, said he, too, would have handled things differently. "The past six years have been a very sad and overwhelming time for me," he said.

Judge sentences former WellCare execs to prison in Medicaid fraud 05/19/14 [Last modified: Monday, May 19, 2014 8:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video shows massive sinkhole that swallowed Apopka home and may grow larger

    Public Safety

    APOPKA — A home near Orlando was partially swallowed by a massive sinkhole Tuesday morning that may grow even larger, officials said.

    A home at 222 West Kelly Park Road in Apopka, Fla., is being swallowed by a sinkhole on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Orange County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Kat Kennedy says crews responded Tuesday morning, shortly after the Apopka house began sinking. [Stephen M. Dowell | Orlando Sentinel via AP]
  2. Daniel Ruth: Public money built Bucs' stadium, so let public sell tickets


    Who knew the Tampa Bay Bucs were actually the Daisies of Dale Mabry?

    Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, wants to do what it takes to ensure that those sitting in the lower bowl of Raymond James Stadium are wearing his team's colors. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]

  3. America's opioid problem is so bad it's cutting into U.S. life expectancy

    Public Safety

    Prosecutors in New York announced this week that an August drug raid yielded 140 pounds of fentanyl, the most in the city's history and enough to kill 32 million people, they told New York 4.

    The average American life expectancy grew overall from 2000 to 2015, but that the astounding rise in opioid-related deaths shaved 2.5 months off this improvement, according to a study. [Associated Press]
  4. After Hurricane Irma, Tampa Bay officers headed south to help out

    Public Safety

    When Hurricane Irma was forecast to pummel the Tampa Bay region, Tampa police Cpl. Whitney McCormick was ready for the worst — to lose her home and all of her possessions.

    Tampa International Airport Police Department Sgt. Eric Diaz (left) stands next to Tampa Police Department Cpl. Whitney McCormick at the Collier County Command Post in the days after Hurricane Irma. More than 100 local law enforcement officers traveled from Tampa Bay to help out the county. (Courtesy of Whitney McCormick)
  5. Forecast: Sunny skies, mainly dry conditions continue across Tampa Bay


    For Tampa Bay residents, Wednesday is expected to bring lots of sunshine, lower humidity and little to no storm chances.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]