Pair from Triangle charged in Florida Medicaid fraud scheme
Posted March 20, 2015
Cary, N.C. — A Cary woman and a Raleigh man were arrested Friday in connection with a Medicaid fraud scheme in Florida.
Christina Benson, who was arrested while on vacation in Savannah, Ga., was charged with two counts of Medicaid provider fraud, while Harold Roderick Harrison faces one count of Medicaid provider fraud. Both also were charged with organizing a scheme to defraud.
According to the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in the Florida Attorney General's Office, Benson operated Tranquility Healthcare Solutions in Orlando, Fla., which billed Medicaid for services for homeless men and women who were recruited by her associates to pose as patients. Tranquility would then bill Medicaid for bogus counseling services for those people. Investigators said Tranquility also used personnel who were not trained, including some who had criminal arrest records.
North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation agents, who are assisting Florida authorities, raided Benson's home in the Weston Lakeside apartment complex in Cary on Wednesday and seized cellphones, a laptop computer, documents and two passports belonging to Benson, including one under the alias Tina Marie Harvey, according to a search warrant.
Investigators said the defendants offered gas cards and temporary housing at an Orlando motel to the homeless in an effort to recruit them to seek services at Tranquility. Once the company obtained Medicaid IDs for them, it billed Medicaid for psychosocial rehabilitation services that were never provided.
One of the supposed clients told agents "that's crazy" when asked about hours and hours of billed counseling, court documents state.
Tranquility billed Medicaid for $3 million, and investigators have identified at least $215,000 that was fraudulent, according to documents.
“Taking advantage of the homeless to essentially steal from taxpayers is despicable and will not be tolerated in Florida,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement.
A Florida physician and another Florida resident also were charged in the case.
The North Carolina Secretary of State's Office said Benson has three businesses registered in the state: two counseling centers and an investment company. All three use a Chapel Hill UPS store as a mailing and physical address. Investigators said she also used the UPS store to collect Medicaid checks from Florida.