Charged local nurse part of U.S. fraud takedown

By BILL POWELL
bpowell@dcherald.com

JASPER — The jailing this week of a former local hospital nurse was one of 12 such Indiana investigations that were part of a larger nationwide health care fraud takedown.

Organizers are billing it as the country’s largest ever health care fraud enforcement action. It involved 601 charged defendants across the U.S., including 165 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals targeted for their alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving more than $2 billion in false billings.

There were 76 doctors charged across the country for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics and 30 state Medicaid Fraud Control Units also participated.

In Indiana, the Office of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit played a key role in 12 criminal investigations that uncovered more than $200,000 in alleged Medicaid fraud, leading to charges against 14 individuals.

In Dubois County, a warrant charged a former nurse at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center with unlawful possession of prescription drugs and theft.

Jilaine P. Wirts, 58, Washington, turned herself in Monday morning at the Dubois County Security Center to answer to the Dubois Superior Court warrant charging her with three Level 6 felony counts of unlawful possession or use of a legend (prescription) drug and three misdemeanor counts of theft.

The charges date to October of last year and follow an internal investigation that resulted in Wirts’ employment at the hospital ending Nov. 2, according to court documents.

The case involves Wirts’ alleged involvement in missing Gabapentin, known by the brand name Neurontin, from the hospital’s Inpatient Rehab Center.

Discrepancies triggered audits of automated medication dispensing cabinet activity in the IRC unit.

When interviewed by investigators with the Indiana Attorney General’s MFCU Feb. 1, Wirts allegedly admitted she took Gabapentin for her own personal use during a six-month period, often ingesting them on her drive home from work.

The investigation resulted in an arrest warrant being issued Friday. Wirts posted bond later Monday.

Other Indiana cases involved instances of forgery, fraudulent claims and bogus billings in Delaware, Floyd, Hendricks, Jefferson, Jennings, Johnson, Lake, Lawrence, Marion, Pulaski and Warrick counties.

“Medicaid fraud leaves in its wake many victims,” Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill said. “Any licensed providers who commit this offense are taking advantage of those for whom they are supposed to provide care, including the disabled and less fortunate who rely on Medicaid.

“In addition, they are also fleecing taxpayers whose hard-earned money is used to fund these programs.”

Hill noted the Hoosiers who stand accused of crimes are certainly presumed innocent until a court finds otherwise.”

In addition to the nationwide health care fraud takedown announced Thursday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that, from July 2017 to the present, it has excluded 2,700 individuals from participation in Medicare, Medicaid and all other federal health care programs, which includes 587 providers excluded for conduct related to opioid diversion and abuse.




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