TAMPA — A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced the operator of several now-closed St. Petersburg assisted living facilities to a year in federal prison.
The case wasn’t about what police said were “deplorable conditions” the residents were living in when the homes were shut down more than three years ago. Instead, it came down to money.
Marcus Lloyd Anderson, 36, billed the government for counseling and psychiatric services his clients never received, according to court records. In some cases, he used the credentials of doctors who no longer worked for him. Federal authorities in 2019 indicted him on seven counts of healthcare fraud and six counts of identity fraud in a scheme totaling $1.27 million.
Anderson, who ran the facilities through the now-defunct company Tampa Bay Behavioral Health Centers, pleaded guilty to one count of healthcare fraud in March 2020 and was facing up to nearly six years in prison.
However, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven said that Anderson’s family support and minimal criminal history, as well as statements from character witnesses at a prior hearing, led her to hand down a more lenient sentence. After his year in prison, he will serve three years of probation and have to pay $323,248 in restitution.
“We think the court heard us loud and clear,” said Anderson’s attorney, Jay Hebert, after the hearing. Anderson and his family were hoping for probation, Hebert said, but considering the amount of prison time he was facing, they were “very comfortable with the court’s position.”
The exception was Anderson’s father, Curtis Anderson, who also worked in healthcare. He said after the hearing that he felt the sentencing should have been postponed to address outstanding questions about the way his son billed certain services and the total amount that was defrauded from the government.
Both Anderson and federal prosecutors agreed that $27,698 was billed on behalf of clients who never received services, two of whom were in hospitals and another in jail on the dates the services were provided.
But in contention was whether Anderson was allowed to bill the government in the name of a doctor who was no longer with the company if the services were part of a long-term treatment plan that was still going on when the doctor left.
Anderson, and his father, believed he could. Federal prosecutor Kristen Fiore said he couldn’t. The question wasn’t totally resolved Wednesday.
Anderson first came to law enforcement’s attention in 2018 when a St. Petersburg police officer came across a resident of one of the assisted living facilities who described squalid conditions inside. Officers found “deplorable conditions” at both homes, including little food for residents, and at one home, open sewage. Residents at both homes went without running water for three days.
Nine residents were removed and the homes, at 3434 Second Ave. S and 3418 Second Ave. S, were deemed uninhabitable.
St. Petersburg police launched an investigation but found “bigger issues,” a police spokeswoman said at the time. The department then turned over the investigation to federal authorities.