Nursing Home Owner Faces Medicare Fraud Charges, Other Federal Charges

Ohio Nursing Home Owner Faces Medicare Fraud Charges, Theft, Abuse

medicare fraud chargesThe owner of a nursing home in Zanesville, Ohio has been arrested on 39 criminal and federal charges that were uncovered by a patient abuse investigation, including Medicare fraud charges.

Steven L. Hitchens, 58, was indicted on Thursday, June 26th on multiple federal charges including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony; two counts of Medicaid fraud, each a fourth-degree felony; and 17 counts of forgery, each a fifth-degree felony.

His nursing home, Autumn Healthcare in Zanesville, was indicted on 16 federal charges including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony, and theft by deception, a fourth-degree felony.

On Friday, June 27th, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said that Hitchens had been under investigation for nursing home abuse charges, including operating a facility that offered substandard care and forged documents to cover up the abuse and neglect. The investigation began in December 2012 after numerous complaints from residents. Family members were allowed to place cameras in their relatives’ rooms to document the potential nursing home abuse. The videos allegedly revealed instances in which staff members failed to provide proper treatment for the elderly residents, including personal care, as well as nutrition and medical assistance.

Staff members also stand accused of falsifying documents stating that they provided care as instructed for each patient, which led to Medicaid and Medicare fraud charges as the falsified records constitute defrauding the government. Autumn Healthcare operates nursing homes in several Ohio counties.

A federal-level lawsuit was filed against Autumn Healthcare by the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid is pending.

“We have a moral obligation, as well as a legal obligation, to protect people in nursing homes,” DeWine said. “Some of the patients in nursing homes across this state have no family, no one to advocate for them. Other patients do. We have an obligation to protect all patients in nursing homes.”

The facility is still licensed, although it has lost its Medicare and Medicaid contracts due to patient abuse, and despite threats from the Ohio Department of Health to revoke the facility’s license.

Whistleblower Protections and Medicare Fraud Claims

Qui Tam” are the first words of a Latin clause referring to the plaintiff as “one who sues as much for the state as for himself or herself.”

It is a provision of the Federal Civil False Claims Act that allows a private citizen to file a suit, in the name of the U.S. Government, charging fraud by government contractors and other entities that receive or use government funds. Bolstered by amendments passed by Congress in 1986, the law has armed private citizens who have independent and direct knowledge of fraud, whether financial institution fraud or Medicare fraud, with a weapon to prosecute government contractors and others who are defrauding the Government.

Common whistle blower actions include:

  • Medicare fraud,
  • defense contractor fraud, and
  • other kinds of fraud against state or federal government

Qui tam lawsuits have been, and continue to be, a very effective and successful tool in combating government procurement and program fraud.

The Strom Law Firm Can Help Protect Medicare Fraud Whistleblowers with the False Claims Act

If you are personally aware of a fraud that has been committed by your current or former employer, a competitor or otherwise, from tax evasion to Medicare fraud, contact the Qui Tam attorneys at the Strom Law Firm today for a no cost consultation to discuss the facts of your case and whether filing a qui tam may be appropriate. We understand the complexity of the False Claims Act, and can help you with your case. We offer free, confidential consultations so contact us for help today. 803.252.4800

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