County employee charged with Medicaid fraud no longer on the job

News-DemocratJuly 31, 2013 

Washington Park Trustee Darron Suggs no longer is employed by the St. Clair County Probation Department after being charged in a federal Medicaid fraud investigation.

Mike Buettner, director of the St. Clair County Probation Department, said, "He no longer works here," when asked about Suggs' status with the department. His last day of employment was July 16. Buettner declined further comment.

Suggs, 39, was charged along with 14 others in Southern Illinois with defrauding the Medicaid's Home Services Program. It pays people to assist disabled adults between 18-59 with things they need help with while keeping them in their personal homes rather than a nursing facility.

Suggs remains on the five-member Board of Trustees in Washington Park. Mayor Ann Rodgers did not return calls seeking comments on whether Suggs would remain on the board.

Suggs has not gone to trial and has not been convicted of the charges.

Also charged with abusing the Medicaid program was Rosalyn Ross, 46, of Swansea, who is an assistant administrative assistant with the East Side Health District. Ross is still on the job and her supervisor, Elizabeth Patton-Whiteside, executive director at East Side Health District, said Ross is innocent until proven guilty and she has no plans to suspend her.

Others from the metro-east who were charged were Lisa C. Luckettt, 49, of Cahokia; Henry J. Billups, 48, of Cahokia; Karashia A. Tabbs, 45, of Cahokia; Valerie W. Johnson, 56, of Centreville; Roslyn R. James, 47, of Alton, and Irma Jones, 67, of Centreville.

The Home Services Program is designed to reduce Medicaid expenditures by avoiding more-expensive institutional care, including nursing home care, U.S. Attorney Steve Wigginton said when he announced the charges against Suggs, Ross and the others on July 11.

After law enforcement received numerous complaints, "We initiated a project to investigate and hold accountable individuals perpetrating fraud against the Home services Program."

The indictments allege that the defendants exploited the Home Services Program and received Medicaid money that they were not entitled to. In some cases, people were receiving money to care for people who did not exist, had died, or moved out of the area, according to court records.

Wigginton said in other cases, the investigations uncovered services that were being billed and not performed because the personal assistant was in jail or out of town. Wigginton said there were cases where the beneficiary was in the hospital, a nursing home or living out of state at the time the services were supposedly rendered.

According to the indictment against Suggs, he allegedly was claiming hours that he worked taking care of his mother when in fact he did not work the hours.

According to the Office of the Inspector General, Medicaid spent $412 million on the personal assistant program in 2011, a 35 percent increase since 2005.

The charge against Suggs carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to three years of supervised probation.

Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.

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