On July 25, 2013, a Cobb County Grand Jury issued an indictment against co-defendants Garry Hankerson, Lisa Hankerson, Pierre Hixon and Londrea Buchanan on charges of violating the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) (O.C.G.A. § 16-14-4(c)), Conspiracy to Defraud the State (O.C.G.A. § 16-10-21(a)) and Medicaid Fraud (O.C.G.A. § 49-4-146.1(b)).
The indictment alleges that Garry Hankerson and Lisa Hankerson, husband and wife, submitted false billing to the Georgia Medicaid program over the course of four years. Their company, First Step Counseling Services, Inc., was enrolled in a Medicaid program known as Intensive Family Intervention (IFI), which provides in-home mental health counseling to youths diagnosed with severe behavioral disorders. According to the indictment, First Step was paid over $650,000 by the Georgia Medicaid program between 2006 and 2010 while falsely billing counseling services. Mr. Hixon and Mr. Buchanan allegedly signed their names to patient progress notes purporting to have provided IFI services when in fact no services had been rendered, and patient chart documents to support billing for unrendered services were revealed to contain forged signatures.
Violation of the RICO Act carries a five to twenty year prison sentence, as well as a fine of up to three times the financial gain realized by those engaged in the racketeering activity. Medicaid Fraud is punishable by one to ten years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Conspiracy to Defraud the State is punishable by one to five years in prison.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Lyndie Freeman, with assistance from Samuel M. Shapiro, a third-year law student at Georgia State University College of Law practicing under Georgia’s Third-Year Practice Act. Investigator Bradford Bartels and Investigative Auditor Amy Snow investigated the case with the assistance of Criminal Analyst Tish Murray, the Georgia Department of Community Health and care management organization Amerigroup.