Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Politics

South Florida state Rep. Daphne Campbell faces IRS investigation

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Already facing a Florida Medicaid fraud probe, South Florida state Rep. Daphne Campbell is being investigated by federal agents who are tracing hundreds of thousands of dollars through bank accounts tied to a web of family health care businesses, the Miami Herald has learned.

The Internal Revenue Service has slapped $145,000 worth of liens on the lawmaker and her husband, Hubert Campbell. IRS agents have received dozens of documents from former business associates who say the Campbells scammed them. And an investigator called Campbell's legislative aide to question her about her boss.

The allegations, following years of legal troubles for Campbell and her family, have so concerned the Florida Democratic Party that it has called on her to "consider stepping down." She faces two fellow Democrats in the Aug. 14 primary of the Miami Shores-area district.

Campbell, 55, said she knew nothing of the IRS case before she hung up her phone with a Herald reporter.

"I don't have no tax liens." she said when asked particulars of the IRS investigation and liens.

But federal records tell a different story. They show Campbell and her husband were hit with a $130,386 lien in March, followed by a second $14,790 lien in April.

Three people, including two former business associates of the Campbells, told the Herald that IRS agents are examining records dating back to at least 2007, when the couple started a consulting service to help people run home healthcare agencies.

The Campbells have had several run-ins with the justice system.

Hubert, 47, who filed for bankruptcy two years ago, was convicted in a mortgage fraud case in 2007, and received three years' probation and a $2,000 fine. Their 29-year-old son, Gregory Campbell, faces state Medicaid fraud charges for an alleged $300,000 swindle. With a trial set for September, he has pleaded not guilty.

Last year, the Florida Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit began investigating home health care companies run by Campbell and her husband, according to sources close to the investigation.

Daphne Campbell also made a curious cameo in a ballot-fraud investigation connected to an assisted living facility in November 2010 when someone fraudulently cast mail-in ballots in the names of three seniors. Investigators couldn't determine who committed the fraud, but they pointedly noted that Campbell had visited the North Miami Beach facility months earlier.

Campbell's top legislative aid is a felon: Janice Shackelford pleaded guilty to a 2006 grand theft charge in Miami-Dade; a swindling charge was dropped.

Shackelford, called the Florida Democratic Party last week in a state of panic after she was contacted by agents, party officials confirmed.

"I'd rather not comment," Shackelford told Herald.

Asked about the case, the party issued a statement expressing worry about Campbell.

"If true, the rumored allegations against Rep. Campbell are very concerning," the statement said. "Any member of the Legislature accused of something this serious should consider stepping down."

Daphne and Hubert Campbell once ran group homes for the mentally ill and the infirm. But they were shuttered after a patient was raped, three died and others lived in such squalor that the state shut off their state funding.

In the Legislature last year, Campbell co-sponsored a bill to block public disclosure of dangerous group homes.

The Campbells have been in the medical consulting business since 2001, opening up a web of companies covering everything from janitorial and nursing services to investment counseling.

They now provide billing and bookkeeping services to nursing and group-home providers, a growing business. That gives them access to something more: lucrative Medicaid billing numbers.

When contacted on Friday, an IRS spokesman in South Florida declined to discuss the matter.

So far, agents have conducted interviews on Florida's west coast with people who did business with the couple as well as in Broward and Miami-Dade.

One home health care agency provider was Nebert Whyte, 69, of Lee County, who said she turned over the management of her firm, Better Health Care Enterprises, to the couple with the hopes that she could grow her business. Then came the trouble.

"They were so kind," she recalled.

But she said she became suspicious when she found bank accounts set up in her company name without her consent.

Then, she discovered that thousands of dollars had been deposited into those accounts from Medicaid billings. "I'm not being paid and they are collecting all the funds," said Whyte. "It took me a year to find out."

Another agency owner, Rose White, 60, said she was duped when the couple took over her Heart of Love Home Care in 2007 and then heavily billed Medicaid for questionable services.

White said she spoke with IRS investigators earlier this year and faxed dozens of bank statements to the them for Wachovia accounts controlled by Hubert Campbell.

"They told me that they were (targeting) her," White said.

Agents are trying to find out "where the money is going and when it was going in the bank," White said.

White said a Wachovia account was opened in her company name in 2007 without her consent — with the statements mailed to a vacant home in Plantation owned by the Campbells.

"Daphne told me that I should transfer all my files and paperwork to their office in Miami," White said.

In one month, more than $43,000 passed through the accounts from Medicaid billings for patients who White says she didn't know.

Some of the records faxed to the IRS show more than $153,000 in Medicaid money was deposited in an account controlled by Hubert Campbell during five months in 2007.

In some cases, the money was then wired to a Deutsche Bank account.

Both women said the billings between 2007 and 2009 prompted the IRS to send them statements saying they owed hundreds of thousands in back taxes.

"They took my life," said White, whose Broward home is in foreclosure. "They used my company to gain hundreds of thousands of dollars. I am still suffering ... those people are dangerous."

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