PWC crooks messed with the wrong sheriff's deputy

Sunday, March 13, 2005

March 14, 2005

BASTROP, La. -- Sheriff's Deputy Lucielle Kennedy loaned her investigative expertise to the OIG in February and helped corral an outfit of wheeler dealers hard at work scamming seniors and billing Medicare for phony power wheelchair claims. For Kennedy's efforts, the OIG gave her a plaque as a token of its appreciation.
"Her work was substantial in helping identify the vendors who were involved in this scam," says Jeff Hannah, a special agent with the Little Rock field office. "She was our eyes and ears down here."
Kennedy works as a Morehouse County sheriff in Bastrop. She and other area law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services unveiled an elaborate fraud scheme that resulted in the arrests of suspects in Louisiana and Texas.
The investigation revealed people in communities like Bastrop who would identify neighbors or family members as being Medicare recipients. These names were sold to companies in Shreveport and Houston, who would contact the victims and tell them they might be eligible to receive a power wheelchair. The victims were then transported to facilities owned by these companies and given medical exams.
"We had one person tell us they had them lay down on a table and they waved a wand-like device over them like they were doing some kind of bone scan or something," Kennedy told a local newspaper. "(The victim) says they told them, 'Oh yeah. We can see you clearly need the chair.'"
The victims would then sign a form and consent to have the company bill Medicare for the wheelchair. The companies, however, were not providing $5,000 power wheelchairs but $500 electric scooters, Hannah told the Bastrop Daily Enterprise.
Investigations similar to the one Kennedy participated in are underway in Texas and Florida, Hannah said.

"It is not unusal for us the OIG to present plaques to people in outside organizations," said OIG spokesman Don White. "We are a small agency we depend on the assistance of professionals, be they at the DOJ, FDA or a deputy sheriff in Morehouse County."