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2 sentenced in Charlotte for Medicaid fraud

By Steve Lyttle and Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
slyttle@charlotteobserver.com

Two Charlotte-area women have been sentenced to prison for their roles in Medicaid fraud schemes that cheated the federal government out of millions of dollars, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors say the women – Victoria Finney Brewton, 39, of Shelby, and Rodnisha Sade Cannon, 27, of Charlotte – stole Medicaid recipient numbers of children and provider information of people licensed to counsel patients.

Brewton and Cannon then used that information to bill the federal government for mental and behavioral health services and after-school programs that prosecutors say never occurred.

Cannon used some of the proceeds from the scheme to buy a luxury Mercedes-Benz CLS550 that authorities say she later tried to sell before it could be seized by investigators.

Brewton was sentenced Wednesday to nine years and 3 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Cannon was sentenced Tuesday to eight years and 6 months in prison for her role in a similar scheme, authorities said.

Prosecutors said Brewton defrauded Medicaid of $8 million in false reimbursement claims for phony mental and behavioral health services, according to the federal government. Judge Frank Whitney ordered her to pay $7.1 million in restitution to Medicaid and more than $570,000 to the IRS.

Cannon was ordered to pay $2.5 million in restitution, according to prosecutors.

The federal government said Cannon initially recruited patients for Brewton, providing her with personal information that Brewton used to file the fraudulent claims. Authorities said Cannon later began running her own operation.

According to court proceedings and federal documents, Brewton operated after-school and summer child care programs from 2008 to 2012 in Shelby. She was accused of recruiting juvenile Medicaid beneficiaries through their parents, then stealing their Medicaid numbers to file the claims.

Prosecutors said Brewton used the Medicaid provider numbers of licensed therapists in filing the claims and failed to report the income to the IRS.

Brewton pleaded guilty in January 2013 to health care fraud, health care fraud conspiracy, aggravated identity theft and filing false tax returns, according to prosecutors.

In April 2013, Cannon pleaded guilty to health care fraud conspiracy, aggravated identity theft and money laundering conspiracy. She also pleaded guilty to trying to sell the Mercedes-Benz CLS550 before it could be seized by authorities. Court records show she bought the car for $59,500 with some of the money she received in the scheme.

Cannon was accused of operating two companies, 2nd Chances and A Chance For Change, between 2010 and 2012. Prosecutors said therapists initially provided services for those companies, but they said Cannon later used the therapists’ Medicaid provider numbers to file false claims.

In May 2012, Cannon hired a licensed social worker – known in court documents only as M.B. – to work for her company. But M.B. only worked for the company one day.

Cannon and her co-conspirators stole M.B.’s Medicaid provider information and used it to file more than $800,000 in fraudulent claims for services that never occurred, prosecutors said.

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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