CHARLOTTE, SOUTH CAROLINA – United States Attorney Peter M. McCoy, Jr., of the District of South Carolina and United States Attorney Andrew Murray of the Western District of North Carolina announced that Markuetric Stringfellow, 37, of Powder Springs, Georgia, has been sentenced to 78 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release for defrauding the South and North Carolina Medicaid programs. In addition to the prison term imposed, U.S. District Judge Kenneth D. Bell also ordered Stringfellow to pay over $5 million as restitution, including more than $700,000 to the South Carolina Medicaid program.
The South Carolina Scheme
According to court documents filed with the U.S. District Court in South Carolina, Stringfellow was a franchise owner of Wrights Care Services LLC (Wrights Care), a qualified provider of Medicaid rehabilitative behavioral health services in South Carolina. Wrights Care was located at 1320 Main Street, in Columbia, South Carolina, and maintained separate franchise locations throughout South Carolina, including in Spartanburg, Pickens, Cheraw, Society Hill, Bennettsville, Hartsville, and Conway. In April 2014, Wrights Care became a participating provider in the South Carolina Medicaid program, which allowed Wrights Care to submit claims for behavioral mentoring services reimbursable under Medicaid.
Starting in or around 2014, Stringfellow and his co-conspirators defrauded the South Carolina Medicaid program by filing fraudulent claims for services that were either not provided, partially provided, or did not qualify for reimbursement. According to court records, to support the fraudulent reimbursement claims filed with the South Carolina Medicaid, Stringfellow and his co-conspirators submitted falsified patient billing records and fake medical notes. Furthermore, court records show that after learning there was a Medicaid audit for Wrights Care, Stringfellow and his co-conspirators attempted to deceive South Carolina Medicaid auditors. In or about March 2015, Stringfellow met other associates of Wrights Care in Columbia for a “note party,” during which the co-conspirators created false and fraudulent billing records to substantiate previously-submitted fraudulent Medicaid claims, forged signatures, and falsified records subject to the audit, which they then submitted to South Carolina Medicaid auditors in response to the audit.
The North Carolina Scheme
In addition to executing a fraudulent scheme in South Carolina, Stringfellow defrauded the North Carolina Medicaid program. According to filed court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, Stringfellow was a resident of Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina, and a partner in Everlasting Vitality, LLC (EV) and Do-It-4-The Hood Corporation (D4H). D4H operated after-school programs in Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Rocky-Mount, North Carolina. Beginning in or about January 7, 2016, and continuing through November 12, 2018, Stringfellow and his co-conspirators executed a conspiracy to defraud the North Carolina Medicaid program by soliciting illegal kickbacks from various drug testing laboratories, in exchange for referrals of North Carolina Medicaid beneficiaries obtained through the after-school programs operated by EV and D4H.
According to court documents, Stringfellow and his co-conspirators paid individuals to recruit at-risk youths, in particular children who were Medicaid eligible, for EV’s or D4H’s after-school and youth mentoring programs. Once enrolled, children were required to submit urine specimens for drug testing. Stringfellow and his co-conspirators conspired with certain laboratories to perform the drug testing of the urine specimens submitted in the names of children enrolled at EV and D4H and received kickbacks after the laboratories were reimbursed by the North Carolina Medicaid.
In addition to the kickback scheme, Stringfellow and his conspirators devised a scheme to defraud North Carolina Medicaid by referring clients to laboratories which they knew would file fraudulent claims and receive reimbursement based on drug testing services that did not meet the drug testing policy requirements. For example, on some occasions, Stringfellow and his co-conspirators obtained personal identifying information (PII) of D4H clients, such as names, addresses, dates of birth, and Medicaid beneficiary numbers, which they provided to drug testing laboratories. In turn, the laboratories used D4H clients’ PII to submit drug testing claims to the North Carolina Medicaid that were fraudulent because, among other reasons, the drug tests were not medically necessary, or the urine specimens were not of the Medicaid beneficiaries under whose names they were submitted. Once North Carolina Medicaid paid the fraudulent claims submitted by the testing laboratories for these unauthorized and medically unnecessary drug tests, the labs then paid companies under the control of Stringfellow and others, at an agreed percentage of their Medicaid reimbursement.
In July 2020, the criminal case pending against Stringfellow in South Carolina federal court was transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina for further proceedings. On August 21, 2020, Stringfellow pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit Medicaid fraud in connection with both federal prosecutions.
Stringfellow will be ordered to report to the federal Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his sentence upon designation of federal facility.
In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney McCoy and U.S. Attorney Murray commended the investigative work of the FBI field offices in Columbia, Charlotte, and Atlanta, as well as the Medicaid Investigation Divisions in Columbia, Raleigh, and Atlanta; and thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia for their assistance and coordination.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brook Andrews with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Columbia and Michael Savage with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte prosecuted the case.