Thursday December 20, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- A Berkshire County grand jury has indicted a nurse from Sandisfield for allegedly stealing $25,000 from MassHealth by fraudulently submitting bills for the nursing care of children while she was actually attending horse riding competitions.

Wednesday, the grand jury returned 15 indictments against 49-year-old Robin Annecharico of Stump Road. The indictments include six counts of larceny over $250, six counts of submitting false Medicaid claims, one count of perjury by written attestation, and two counts of obstruction. MassHealth is the state’s Medicaid program.

The indictment was filed by the state Attorney General’s Office, which also announced the indictment in a news release on Wednesday.

"Fraud committed against the Medicaid program is theft from taxpayers," said state Attorney General Martha Coakley in the written statement. "These funds are supposed to be for our most vulnerable patients, not for those looking to abuse the system. Our office is focused on recovering this money for the Commonwealth."

The Bureau of Special Investigations for the state Auditor’s Office was also involved in the probe.

"This is a great example of collaboration across government to ensure integrity in our public benefits programs, and that those who need public assistance are the ones who receive it," said state Auditor Suzanne Bump.

Attempts to reach Annecharico were not successful. It was unclear Wednesday if she had a lawyer. Annecharico is scheduled to be arraigned on Jan. 9 in Berkshire Superior Court.

According to the state Attorney General’s Office, Annecharico allegedly billed MassHealth for the nursing care of three children in Housatonic while she was either attending or participating in horse barrel racing competitions -- a rodeo event -- in Mississippi, Virginia and Georgia between 2007 and 2009. It was not clear Wednesday where the children were receiving the nursing care.

The AG’s office further alleges that Annecharico also provided false treatment records to investigators and the Berkshire County grand jury in response to a subpoena during Coakley’s investigation.

Annecharico allegedly filed the false Medicaid claims at different times in connection with national and world championship events put on by the National Barrel Horse Association, the indictments state.

The AG’s office began investigating Annecharico in May 2011 after receiving information from the Bureau of Special Investigations of the auditor’s office that she had falsely billed for services while participating in the NBHA’s World Championships in Georgia in both 2008 and 2009.

According to investigators, Annecharico also falsely billed for services while traveling to and from horse barrel races in Mississippi in 2007 and in Virginia in 2007 and 2008.

Each time that Annecharico allegedly submitted false claim forms to MassHealth for payment, she signed her bills under pains and penalties of perjury, according to the AG’s office. Annecharico also allegedly fabricated detailed daily patient treatment records and medication records for each of her patients and provided these false records to investigators and to the grand jury in an alleged attempt to cover up the fraud.

Assistant Attorney General Kriss Basil is prosecuting the case as part of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Division. The case was investigated by Investigator Rachel Cooper with assistance from state police assigned to the AG’s office and the MassHealth Provider Compliance Unit.