A former Unisys employee accused of stealing a quarter-million dollars from the state's Medicaid fund agreed Wednesday to help prosecutors investigate the company that writes the state's Medicaid checks.
His plea agreement came a day after agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Unisys employee Daniel Perez on charges related to a $20-million theft of Medicaid money.
Darien Reynolds, 31, agreed on Wednesday to help investigators as part of a plea agreement that will send him to jail for 18 months and force him to spend 20 years on probation while repaying the $226,614 missing from state funds and another $13,000 in investigative costs.
Reynolds pleaded guilty to a single count of grand theft after prosecutors agreed to drop forgery, fraud and money laundering charges. He will also testify against his sister, who is accused of helping him cash altered checks that he obtained while working as a temporary employee at Unisys.
A statewide grand jury is investigating Unisys and the way the company has handled state contracts valued at more than $160-million. The company has two contracts: one to administer Medicaid payments for poor and elderly Floridians, the other for handling payments from an employee health care plan for more than 100,000 state employees, retirees and dependents.
Statewide Prosecutor Melanie Hines said she was willing to let Reynolds escape the 30-year term he might have faced in return for his cooperation and restitution.
She said Reynolds actually received about $71,200 of the money he and his sister got by altering Unisys checks. He is obligated to repay the entire $226,614, but will not have to pay it all if his sister is convicted.
Reynolds and his sister, Pamela Brown Reynolds, were charged with altering checks valued at more than $387,000, but not all of them were cashed. The scheme was discovered after an alert bank teller in Jacksonville spotted an altered date on one of the checks.
Circuit Judge F.E. Steinmeyer III insisted that the money be repaid as a condition of probation and refused to accept an initial offer that would have kept him on probation for 10 years after Reynolds said he might not be able to repay the money during the shorter period of time.
Officials at the Agency for Health Care Administration said the amount stolen by Reynolds and his sister and an $80,000 fine has already been withheld from money the state pays Unisys to handle the contract. When Reynolds makes restitution, he'll pay Unisys.
"I'm not willing to accept him taking this kind of money from the state and serving only 18 months in jail and getting away without paying it," Steinmeyer said.
Timothy Jansen, Reynolds' attorney, said his client was sorry.
"We chose to accept this to get this thing resolved," Jansen said. "He believes he won't be in trouble with the law again."
Jansen also said Reynolds will be able to describe practices at Unisys that may have aided in the fraud allegedly committed by Perez.
_ Times staff writer T. Christian Miller contributed to this report.