Employee of Autism Services Agency Pleads Guilty to Health Care Fraud and Identity Theft Offenses

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Leonard C Boyle, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that JESSICA STUART, 38, of Fairfield, waived her right to be indicted and pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer in New Haven to health care fraud and identity theft offenses.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Stuart was employed by Helping Hands Academy, LLC, in Bridgeport, which provided applied behavior analysis services to children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).   Helping Hands Academy enrolled as a participating provider in the Connecticut Medicaid Program (“Medicaid”) in approximately September 2018.

Medicaid requires that ASD treatment services be provided under the supervision of a licensed medical practitioner or a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis.  BCBAs are also required to be credentialed in writing by the state.  Stuart does not have a college degree, was not a BCBA or licensed medical practitioner, and did not have any formal training in applied behavior analysis for ASD.  Between approximately May 2019 and September 2020, Helping Hands Academy paid Stuart at least $143,0000 and submitted to Medicaid numerous fraudulent claims for applied behavioral analysis services that Stuart performed but was not qualified to provide.  Stuart used the name of an individual without the individual’s knowledge or authorization so that Stuart could impersonate a BCBA when she knew she was not a BCBA.

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Medicaid suffered a loss of $369,439.96 as a result of Stuart’s conduct.

Stuart pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years, and one count of using false identification in connection with health care fraud, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years.  Judge Meyer scheduled sentencing for August 31, 2021.

Stuart is released pending sentencing.

On April 28, 2021, Nicole Balkas, the owner of Helping Hands Academy, pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud.  She awaits sentencing.

This investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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Acting U.S. Attorney Boyle acknowledged the valuable cooperation of the Connecticut Department of Social Services in the investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David T. Huang.

People who suspect health care fraud are encouraged to report it by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS.

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