Mississippi Women Must Repay Tennessee for TennCare Benefits
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Two women from Mississippi must repay TennCare for medical benefits received when they were on the program after they were convicted of fraud.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) today announced sentencing in separate cases involving Patricia Bell, 32, of Horn Lake, Mississippi and Washett Spears-Whiting, 35, of Southaven, Mississippi, both convicted of TennCare fraud. Combined, they’re ordered to repay TennCare is $23,925.29 in restitution.
Patricia Bell pleaded guilty to TennCare fraud and theft of property over $10,000. She was granted Judicial Diversion for four years and given four years supervised probation. She must also pay restitution to TennCare in the amount of $13,291.93. Bell was arrested March 2013, and accused of misrepresenting her residency in order to be eligible for TennCare benefits.
Washett Spears-Whiting was granted Judicial Diversion for three years and given three years supervised probation. She was also ordered to pay $10,633.36 in restitution to TennCare after pleading guilty to TennCare fraud and theft of property relating to misrepresenting her residency in order to obtain TennCare benefits.
“We will prosecute anyone we find who misrepresents their income, address or employment to gain TennCare benefits,” Inspector General Manny Tyndall said. “Tennessee taxpayers have made it clear to us they want to see people prosecuted, especially for lying about residency to get TennCare benefits.”
District Attorney General Amy T. Weirich prosecuted these cases.
The OIG, which is separate from TennCare, began full operation in February 2005 and has investigated cases leading to over $5 million being repaid to TennCare, with a total estimated cost avoidance of over $176 million for TennCare, according to latest figures. To date, 2,250 people have been charged with TennCare fraud.
Through the OIG Cash for Tips Program established by the Legislature, Tennesseans can get cash rewards for TennCare fraud tips that lead to convictions. Anyone can report suspected TennCare fraud by calling 1-800-433-3982 toll-free from anywhere in Tennessee, or log on to www.tn.gov/tnoig/ and follow the prompts that read "Report TennCare Fraud."