A social worker for the Mecklenburg Department of Social Services is accused of selling the identifying information of federal Medicaid recipients to a man alleged to have bilked the government of more than $3 million.
Ieshia Hicks Watkins is charged with health care fraud conspiracy and receiving illegal kickbacks in connection with the two-year-scheme, according to a federal bill of information filed this month. Court records indicate the possibility of a plea in the case, but it was unclear late Monday if an agreement has been reached or approved by a judge.
Watkins, a senior social worker, has been employed by Mecklenburg DSS since 2007. She earns an annual salary of $49,600, according to county records. Neither she nor her attorney could be reached for comment late Monday.
Court records say Watkins conspired with a man named Ronnie Robinson. He owned and operated Peaceful Alternative Resources (PAR) Inc., which was billed as a non-profit provider of mental health and mentoring services. PAR had been approved by the North Carolina Medical Assistance Program (Medicaid) to provide outpatient mental and behavioral health services.
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But court documents say PAR didn’t provide those services. Instead, Watkins gathered DSS client information and sold it to Robinson in exchange for cash and gifts.
“Watkins received at least $10,000 as payment for selling DSS client names and identifying information to Robinson. Robinson used this information to submit nearly $30,000 in false and fraudulent claims to Medicaid,” the bill of information says.
A bill of information filed for Robinson in a related case says his proceeds from the scheme totaled $3,057,377. Court documents say he used the money to buy cars and jewelry, including a 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle-Malibu, a 1 5/8 carat ladies diamond ring, a 2004 Range Rover and a 2007 Mercedes S550.