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Medicaid fraud probe focuses on state lawmaker

Months after Florida lawmaker Daphne Campbell promised to crack down on Medicaid fraud, state agents are now carrying out her pledge by focusing on an unexpected target: Campbell's own health care business.

The state Attorney General's Office is tracing hundreds of thousands in payments by the state to group home companies that were run by Campbell and her husband, the Miami Herald reported.

Investigators have gathered dozens of financial records from former owners whose facilities were managed by the couple to determine if the money was properly spent over the past four years.

Neither Campbell, 54, a Democrat whose House district covers northeast Miami-Dade, nor Hubert Campbell, 46, who was convicted in a mortgage fraud case in 2007, would respond to interview requests.

The probe comes weeks after the arrest of the couple's 28-year-old son, Gregory Campbell, in a separate Medicaid fraud case. He is accused of falsely billing the state for nearly $300,000 and has pleaded not guilty.

The most recent investigation is among a dozen being carried out by Medicaid fraud units across the state, but is the only one involving someone directly tied to legislation impacting long-term care in Florida. Every year, the state spends millions of dollars to support people with disabilities and mental illness living in special homes.

The investigation follows years of disputes between the Campbells and the state over conditions in their group homes, including the state's decision to stop funding the homes in 2006 after a woman with mental illness was raped and three others abruptly died in one of the facilities.

Years earlier, the Campbells' assisted living facility in North Miami Beach drew so much attention from the Department of Elder Affairs — which found residents languishing without air conditioning and electricity — that it urged the home be shuttered.

After losing their funding, the Campbells launched a new venture: a consulting service that allowed them to continue operating in the growing group home industry by offering billing and bookkeeping services.

The couple embarked on an ambitious effort to recruit group home owners that would reap thousands of dollars for the Campbell family, according to records and interviews.

The couple told one owner that they would show her how to build her business.

"They told me 'we are going to help you grow your company,' " said Rose White, 59, who opened Heart of Love Home Care Inc. in late 2006.

But a series of disputes between the Campbells and two of their newly recruited owners would draw the attention of the Broward office of the attorney general's Medicaid fraud control unit.

White said she took her case to state agents last year after discovering that two bank accounts had been opened in her company's name in 2007 without her knowledge. She grew concerned because of the amount of money passing through the accounts from Medicaid: in one month alone, more than $43,000, she said.

"I don't know where they get that money from," said White, who added she was unaware of some of the disabled clients under her company's care.

Once the relationship soured, the Campbells forged an alliance with another fledging health care company, Better Health Care Enterprises in Lee County, whose owner would also turn to authorities.

Nebert Whyte, 68, said she also found two bank accounts opened in her company's name without her consent — and that thousands of dollars had been deposited from Medicaid.

Both partners of the Campbells say they are now receiving bills from the Internal Revenue Service showing they owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes for the money that flowed through their companies.

"I didn't realize the money was coming in until the IRS sent the 1099 form. When I looked at it, I nearly had a heart attack," Whyte said. "All I made was about $7,000."

The Attorney General's Office would not discuss the matter, and records detailing the Medicaid payments to the two companies were not immediately available from the state.

Some records turned over to investigators show more than $153,400 in Medicaid money was deposited into a Wachovia bank account controlled by Hubert Campbell during five months in 2007, but it's not clear how the money was spent.

Bank records for the other company, Better Health Care Enterprises, show a signature card with Hubert and Daphne Campbell as the only authorized signatories in 2009, but it's not clear how much money — if any — flowed into the account.

Hubert Campbell, who did not return phone calls, was under federal mortgage fraud indictment during part of the period he served as a consultant to Love and Care. He pleaded guilty to false representation of a Social Security number to obtain a mortgage and received three years' probation and a $2,000 fine. Last year, he filed for bankruptcy, court records show.

On Friday, during a ceremonial bill signing at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Daphne Campbell refused to talk to the Herald about the state inquiry, saying only, "I am a celebrity."

Elected in a tight race last year, Campbell pledged during the opening day of the legislative session that she would fight health-care fraud.

"I'm here to help them with the Medicaid reform," she said. "Medicaid fraud in Miami is big, so if we could get that resolved, so we would have the (budget) shortfall drop down."

Miami Herald staff writers Marc Caputo and Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.

Medicaid fraud probe focuses on state lawmaker 07/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 2, 2011 10:51pm]
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