Thursday, August 23, 2007

Couple gets 7 years for fraud

A Wichita couple who ran a drug and alcohol abuse counseling center were sentenced Friday to more than seven years in federal prison for their roles in a health-care fraud case.

Peggy Franklin-El, 50, and her husband, Johnnie Franklin-El, 53, were sentenced to 92 months in prison each by U.S. District Judge Monti Belot, who ordered them to pay $1.24 million in restitution.

In March, federal jurors found the Franklin-Els guilty of making more than $1.24 million in false claims to Medicaid.

The couple operated The Great Meeting Is On For Your Success Inc. at 1015 E. Ninth St. in Wichita. According to the indictment, the couple defrauded Medicaid by submitting false claims for services that were not provided.

The claims named 67 Medicaid beneficiaries who were supposed to have received services.

Among the claims:

** For treatment reportedly provided to infants and children 12 and younger. In one case, the beneficiary was 36 days old.

** For beneficiaries who had no history of drug or alcohol use and had not been diagnosed as needing community-based drug and alcohol abuse services.

** For services not authorized before claims were submitted and for which they could not bill Medicaid, such as tutoring, anger management counseling, transportation, feeding and baby-sitting.

** For services not documented and for which required assessment tools were not completed.

The couple started the drug and alcohol treatment center, frequently referred to as Success Inc., in the early 1990s. They were credited for helping diminish the drug problem in an area once known as 'crack alley.'

Their work didn't go unrecognized.

For example, in 1994, Peggy Franklin-El was the recipient of the Intrust Bank First Citizen award, for which she received a $6,000 check for Success Inc.

But U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren said in a statement that the couple 'preyed on a community of economically deprived, vulnerable individuals who were lured into giving the defendants their Medicaid numbers, without which the fraud could not have been successful.'

Peggy Franklin-El was convicted on 52 counts of Medicaid fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. Johnnie Franklin-El was convicted on 17 counts of Medicaid fraud and one count of obstruction of justice.

Copyright © 2007 The Wichita Eagle, All Rights Reserved.

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