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Former state education regulator faces charges in Medicare fraud case

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NEW ORLEANS — Federal prosecutors have charged a former member of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education as part of a nationwide crackdown on Medicare fraud.

The New Orleans Advocate (http://bit.ly/1MV1t1f) reports Louella Givens, who represented the New Orleans area on BESE for two terms before losing a 2011 re-election bid, is accused of submitting millions of dollars in fraudulent Medicare claims through her home health care companies.

Ten others, including two doctors and a psychologist, were charged in five separate New Orleans-based schemes that authorities said involved about $110 million in fraudulent Medicare claims. The case is part of a nationwide health care fraud sweep that led to charges announced Thursday against 243 people from Miami to Los Angeles to Dallas to Brooklyn, New York.

Givens could not be reached for comment. She's scheduled to appear in federal court June 30.

As owner of Maxima Home Health Services and House Call Home Health Care, Givens paid kickbacks for patient referrals and submitted claims to Medicare for services that either weren't provided or were not medically necessary, according to a 26-page criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

Federal authorities began investigating Maxima about a year ago after a confidential informant told them that Givens had been paying people for referrals for home health care services and "billing Medicare services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided," the complaint says.

After reviewing bank records and Medicare claims data and interviewing former employees, the authorities determined many of the beneficiaries involved had not met Medicare criteria for home health care.

"The information obtained by investigators also indicated that many of these same beneficiaries reported never having seen or (having) any contact with the physician listed on Maxima billing documents as the referring physician," Wesley Root, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, wrote in the complaint.

Givens was no stranger to controversy during her time on the state's top school board.

In 2011, The Times-Picayune reported she had been arrested for DWI and later that year the Internal Revenue Service had placed a lien on Givens' home due to more than $1.3 million unpaid federal taxes.


Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com

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