Head of Suburban Autism Center Charged in $3M Fraud Scheme

Dirksen United States Courthouse (Ken Lund / Flickr)Dirksen United States Courthouse (Ken Lund / Flickr)

The head of a south suburban autism center faces nearly a dozen criminal charges after allegedly submitting $3 million in fraudulent insurance claims for therapeutic services that were never provided to clients.

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A federal indictment returned against Latrice Harrell, 46, charges her with seven counts of health care fraud, two counts of making false statements in a health care matter and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

Harrell pleaded not guilty Thursday at her arraignment at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago before U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall. 

Harrell’s scheme involved submitting fraudulent claims to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois totaling approximately $3 million, “that falsely represented that certain health care services were provided to patients at The Champion Center for Autism by Individual A and Individual B, when defendant Harrell knew that those services were not provided,” the indictment states.

Harrell was the executive director of The Champion Center for Autism Inc., in suburban Oak Forest. Federal prosecutors allege that between November 2015 and May 2018, she repeatedly sent false documents to the insurance provider making it appear certain services had been provided.

The indictment states Harrell submitted claims indicating patients had received treatment by the center’s occupational therapist or behavioral analyst, when she knew that no such services were provided.

Harrell also fraudulently claimed other employees at the center had conducted patient evaluations, created plans of care for patients and performed occupational and behavioral therapy for patients, the indictment states. But no such services were ever rendered.

As a result of these fraudulent claims, Harrell allegedly obtained around $1.6 million from Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The seven counts of health care fraud are each punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The two false statement counts each carry a maximum sentence of five years. If convicted on the aggravated identity theft counts, Harrell would receive a mandatory two-year prison sentence which must be served consecutively on top of any other sentences. 

Harrell is due back in court for a status hearing on Nov. 18.

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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