PITTSFIELD -- A registered nurse from Sandisfield received a suspended jail sentence on Friday in connection with a scheme to bill the state's Medicaid program for more than $25,000 while at horse competitions.
Berkshire Superior Court Judge John A. Agostini handed Robin Annecharico, 49, an 18-month sentence in the Berkshire County House of Correction suspended for a probationary period of five years.
Annecharico was also ordered to pay $23,126 in restitution to MassHealth, according to the State Attorney General's office, which prosecuted the case with assistance from the state Auditor's office. MassHealth is the state's Medicaid program.
On Aug. 29, Annecharico pleaded guilty to six counts of larceny over $250, six counts of Medicaid false claims, two counts of obstruction of justice, and one count of making false statements under penalty of perjury, in Superior Court. She also fabricated treatment and medical records for her patients to obstruct the ongoing criminal investigation by the state Attorney General's Office and a Berkshire County grand jury.
"This defendant cheated the system, defrauded taxpayer dollars, and obstructed my office's investigation by providing false documents," said state Attorney General Martha Coakley in a statement. "We are pleased that this resolution will recover money for the commonwealth and put an end to these deceptive practices.
"Together, with the attorney general, we are focused on preventing fraud and improving the public's trust in government," said State Auditor Suzanne Bump. "This sentencing sends a message. If you attempt to take advantage of public benefit programs, you will be held accountable."
Until 2011, Annecharico provided independent nursing services to Medicaid-eligible patients in Massachusetts. The Attorney General's Office's Medicaid Fraud Division began investigating Annecharico's billing practices following a referral from the Bureau of Special Investigations in the Office of the State Auditor suggesting that she had falsely billed for services while participating in the National Barrel Horse Association World Championships in Augusta, Ga., in 2008 and 2009.
The investigation found that Annecharico repeatedly billed MassHealth for nursing care for three children in Berkshire County while she was either attending or participating in these competitions in Mississippi, Virginia, and Georgia. Annecharico also billed MassHealth for services that she did not provide on major holidays, and submitted many of her bills to MassHealth under penalties of perjury.
She had been indicted in December by a Berkshire County grand jury.