On August 9, a Richmond pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and health care fraud on the Medicaid program.
Thirty-six-year-old Chermeca Harris was a Medicaid beneficiary who misrepresented her health condition to various health care providers, including ambulance services and hospitals to get health care benefits. Harris said she had been diagnosed with sickle cell anemia and experienced a crisis to obtain painkillers, such as intravenous dilaudid.
In January, Harris underwent testing to determine if she had sickle cell anemia. The test results proved that she did not have the disease. Several hospitals were involved in the process, including Bon Secours St. Mary’s, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, Chippenham, Henrico Doctor’s, and John Randolph Medical Center.According to court documents, Harris utilized false identities of two Medicaid recipients on some occasions. Federal agents investigating the case spoke with Harris and she provided them with a false identity and falsely represented that she had sickle cell anemia.
Harris was part of what the state is calling the largest health care fraud enforcement action conducted by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. A total of 412 defendants were charged, including nurses, doctors and other licensed medical professionals, for participating in health care fraud schemes across 41 federal districts. The false billings totaled up to nearly $1.3 billion. Over 120 of those defendants were charged in connection with prescribing and distributing opioids and other narcotics.
Additionally, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began suspension actions against 295 licensed medical providers, including pharmacists, nurses and doctors.
Harris faces a mandatory minimum 2-year prison sentence and maximum 12-year prison sentence. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 26.