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.
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.