BATON ROUGE - The owner of Universal Care LLC, which had offices in Bastrop and Monroe, along with three employees recently pled guilty to charges related to allegations that they committed Medicaid fraud, but a lawyer for three of the women said any crime they committed was simply sloppy administrative work.
Elaine Burrell, owner of Universal Care; and employees Laurean Burrell, Betty Jean Tappin, and Verna Marie Tippitt were charged with creating fake billing documents and personnel files by Louisiana Attorney General Office's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).
“In this particular case, it’s more or less poor record keeping, or attempting to correct documentation that was not completed properly," James G. Smith, the attorney representing the three employees, recently told the Louisiana Record. "It was not a desire to falsify records for monetary gain; it was more or less administrative errors trying to be corrected and dealt with."
The bogus documents were allegedly created as part of an audit of Universal Care's Monroe office that was requested by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH).
"They (the defendants) were in the process of preparing different documents; they were making corrections and doing some other things to present those documents to the state," Smith said.
Universal Care was shut down by DHH in 2011 after the auditors noticed issues with the documents.
“In the process of doing their annual audit, they (the state auditors) were able to determine that some of the documents were being corrected while they were there, and they felt like that in and of itself was improper, and so they turned them in over to (Attorney General Jeff Landry's) office," Smith said.
Elaine Burrell and Tappin were charged with criminal conspiracy concerning false public records, while Laurean Burrell and Tippett were charged with filing/maintaining false public records.
Judge Richard Anderson of the 19th Judicial District Court put all four women under two years of active supervised probation. He also permanently barred Elaine Burrell from participating in Medicaid or Medicare programs in Louisiana, while the other three are prohibited for five years.
Landry's office recovered more than $300,000 in criminal restitution and civil forfeiture from the women as part of the case.
“I am grateful to my Medicaid Fraud Control Unit for a job well done,” Landry said in a press release. “Every time someone defrauds the Medicaid program, resources are taken away from the poor and money away from the taxpayers. This unlawful and immoral act will be prosecuted as our office is committed to ruling out fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicaid.”