Keith Ellison charges 8 more with Medicaid fraud

Is there any state-run program that’s not riddled with fraud?

Last Friday, the state attorney general’s office issued a press release on Ellison’s accusation that the 8 defendants engaged in a $2.6 million fraud, mostly around the non-emergency medical transportation program. From the press release,

The co-conspirators’ conduct primarily involves fraudulently billing the Medicaid program for transportation, interpreter, and specialty-clinic services, including acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractor, and mental-health services, that were not provided at all, or were not eligible for reimbursement from the Medicaid program. 

The AG’s office summarizes in one sentence how the fraud works,

As part of the scheme, the eight co-conspirators engaged in a broad scheme of identity theft, whereby they used the stolen identities of hundreds of separate individuals, largely from the Faribault area, to bill the Medicaid program for services that the victims did not receive and that the co-conspirators did not provide.

So, the trick is to obtain a set of identity information for a person (name, address, DOB, SSN, etc.) and then bill for never-provided, government-reimbursable services that the “patient” is unaware of.

In many instances, the identity data is obtained through providing a legitimate (if just one-time) service. We have heard stories, specifically from the Faribault area, of identity information begin traded among fraudsters.

You will recall that back in August 2023, Ellison charged 18 people in a $10 million fraud involving the personal care assistance (PCA) program. In December, Ellison charged 3 more, and upped the dollar amount to $11 million.

But you will not be surprised to learn that those December 2023 charges marked the most recent occasion on which Ellison charged anyone with any crime for any reason. The original PCA case filed in August was the most recent case before that.

Before that, the last time Ellison prosecuted anyone who is NOT a police officer was in April 2023, more than a year ago. State criminal prosecution (other than of police officers) in Minnesota is the rare exception, not the rule. But I digress.

Right now, in Federal court in Minneapolis, the first Feeding Our Future fraud trail is underway, featuring the initial batch of 7 defendants (out of 70 charged) in the free-food scandal.

Of the 70, Anab Awab (Defendant No. 33 and Guilty Plea No. 5) admitted to her role in the food fraud and an earlier, unrelated Medicaid fraud. Deena Winter of MN Reformer has documented that about half of the Feeding Our Future defendants operated other businesses under state contracts.

Name a government-funded program in Minnesota–child daycare, adult daycare, food stamps, etc.–and you can see there’s been a 8- or 9-figure fraud uncovered in recent years. In fact, investigators find fraud wherever, and whenever they look for it, with little effort.

So why don’t they look for more? Why is there not a top-down, bottom-up review of every state-funded program to root out widespread fraud?

That is the question.