Woman Sentenced to Nearly Eight Years in Prison for Healthcare Fraud

A Richmond Heights woman was sentenced to nearly eight years in prison for operating an $18 million home healthcare fraud scheme, law enforcement officials said.

Sharon Ward, 45, was sentenced to 94 months in prison and ordered to pay $18 million in restitution after previously being found guilty to healthcare fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Her mother, Queen Ward, 64, of Cleveland Heights, was previously found guilty of healthcare fraud. She was sentenced to five years supervised release, 300 hours of community service, and ordered to pay more than $400,000 in restitution .

Together, they owned and operated Heritage Home Healthcare Agency in Cleveland Heights, despite the fact that Sharon Ward was previously convicted of Medicaid fraud, which precluded her participation in all federal health care programs for five years. Sharon Ward continued to own Heritage Home Health while she was excluded, as well as continued to see patients as a nurse, conducted nursing visits and bill Medicaid for her and her employees’ services. Queen Ward continued to bill Medicaid for her daughter’s services, and continued to pay Sharon Ward, despite the fact that she had been told by the Ohio Medicaid Fraud Control Unit that Sharon Ward was an excluded provider and had never been reinstated as an accredited provider, according to court documents.

Queen Ward also created fraudulent background checks for prospective employees that had criminal records and therefore would have been disqualified, according to court documents.

Between 2006 and 2014, Heritage Home Health received more than $18.1 million from Medicaid and Sharon Ward received a salary of more than $2.2 million, all during Sharon Ward’s period of exclusion from federal health care programs, according to court documents.

“The conduct detailed in these cases is egregious,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “These programs were designed to help the sick and infirm, and these defendants defrauded them out of millions of dollars for their own personal gain.”

“Health care fraud affects every American,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office. “Waste, fraud and abuse take critical resources out of our health care system, contribute to the rising cost of health care and degrades the integrity of our health care system and legitimate patient care. This week’s efforts send a message to those defrauding our system that authorities will collaboratively address this significant crime problem.”

“The defendants in this case exhibited a complete disregard for the law and potentially put the safety and well-being of elderly and ill homebound patients at risk,” said Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General – Chicago Region. “Today’s sentencing should serve as a deterrence to those who attempt to execute health care fraud schemes, and demonstrate that the OIG and our law enforcement partners are actively engaged in protecting vulnerable patients and taxpayer dollars.”

“Ohio has one of the best Medicaid Fraud Control Units in the country, and we diligently work with our state, local, and federal partners to weed out those who bill Medicaid and Medicare for services they did not provide or services that are not medically necessarily,” said Attorney General Mike DeWine. “Heath care fraud diverts funds from people who legitimately need care, and through joint efforts like this one, we intend to continue to aggressively go after those who steal from taxpayers and take money that they are not entitled to receive.”

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