St. Louis County Couple Sentenced for Defrauding

Posted on September 10, 2022Comments Off on St. Louis County Couple Sentenced for Defrauding

St. Louis County Couple Sentenced for Defrauding Medicaid

(STL.News) U.S. District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig on Friday sentenced a couple from St. Louis County for falsely claiming to have provided home care to elderly Medicaid recipients.

Qais Meraj, 33, was sentenced to two months in prison, two years of supervised release, a $5,000 fine and was ordered to repay $45,871. Judge Fleissig sentenced Aziza Meraj, 41, to three years of probation including two months of house arrest, a $5,000 fine and ordered her to repay $33,241. She was also ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

During Aziza Meraj’s sentencing Judge Fleissig called the case “very disturbing,” and cited allegations in court documents of other fraudulent activity by the Merajs, adding, “This is just really inexcusable behavior.”

Qais and Aziza Meraj each pleaded guilty June 8 to one count of making false statements to the Medicaid program. They admitted defrauding the Missouri Medicaid program MO HealthNet by falsely claiming to have provided personal care services for multiple Medicaid clients from February 2019 to March 2021. As a result, Medicaid was billed for services that were never provided.

Qais Meraj admitted being paid $45,871 for services that he had not provided. Aziza Meraj admitted being paid $33,241.

The Merajs worked for different companies during that time as personal care attendants, and were supposed to help clients with meal preparation, grooming, cleaning and managing their medications as a way of keeping those clients out of a nursing home or hospital.

The Merajs forged clients’ initials and submitted time sheets that falsely represented that they provided personal care services to one couple when the Merajs were out of the country, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Sestric said in a sentencing memo.

In court, Sestric said, “This crime was motivated by pure greed.” She said the couple has a comfortable net worth, owns a host of investment properties and a gas station and convenience store, but chose to defraud a program intended to help vulnerable, low-income Missouri residents, and to deprive elderly, non-English-speaking Medicaid recipients of necessary services.

When the couple’s failure to help one couple was reported to the Missouri Medicaid Audit and Compliance Office, Aziza Meraj retaliated by impersonating the couple’s daughter and canceling their Medicaid eligibility and food stamps by falsely claiming that they were leaving the country, Sestric said in court. It took several months to get the benefits restored, she said.

“The Merajs were more motivated by personal greed than their duty to provide appropriate and necessary care to vulnerable patients,” said Curt L. Muller, Special Agent in Charge with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “Alongside our law enforcement partners, HHS-OIG is committed to protecting the integrity of the Medicaid program and to ensuring the appropriate use of U.S. taxpayer dollars.”

The HHS-OIG and the Missouri Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Sestric prosecuted the case.

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SOURCE: USDOJ.Today

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