Carr Announces Indictments of Four Suspects in Scheme to Exploit Disabled Adults and Medicaid
ATLANTA, GA - Owner and operator of Wishes 4 Me Foundation, Inc., Jennifer Lynn Robinette and associates Tonya Joy Ward, Bethany Braga, and Ronnika Barton have been indicted in connection with a scheme to allegedly obtain money to which they were not entitled from both the Georgia Medicaid program and disabled adults. On February 27, 2019, Robinette, Ward, Braga, and Barton were indicted on the following charges:
- Two counts of Violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (Robinette, Ward, Braga, and Barton)
- Four counts of Medicaid Fraud (Robinette, Ward, Braga, and Barton)
- One count of Conspiracy to Defraud the State (Robinette, Ward, and Braga)
- Nineteen counts of False Writings (Robinette)
- Four counts of Forgery in the First Degree (Robinette, Ward, and Braga)
- Eight counts of Exploitation of a Disabled Adult (Robinette, Ward, Braga, and Barton)
- One count of Identity Fraud (Robinette)
Ward, Braga, and Barton turned themselves in to law enforcement on March 13, 2019, and Robinette turned herself in to law enforcement on March 14, 2019. Also on March 14, 2019, the Office of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Division, the Gwinnett Police Department, and representatives from other state agencies participated in search warrants at homes operated by Wishes 4 Me. Twenty-three (23) at-risk adults were found living in these homes.
“Exploiting disabled adults in order to steal tax dollars is reprehensible, and I commend both the Gwinnett County Police Department and our Medicaid Fraud Control Division for their work on this matter,” said Attorney General Chris Carr.
“The Gwinnett County Police Special Victims Unit is pleased to have worked with the State Attorney General's Office on this case,” said Corporal Wilbert Rundles, Public Information Officer for the Gwinnett County Police Department. “This months-long investigation involved more than 25 officers and detectives from Gwinnett County Police and more than 100 state employees from several agencies. The Gwinnett County Police Department remains vigilant in our commitment to the safety and security of our at-risk adults.”
Jennifer Lynn Robinette owns and operates Wishes 4 Me Foundation, Inc., a corporation which advertises itself as providing “structured living for adults with disabilities” and helping “disabled adults live a more active lifestyle.” Robinette actively solicited donations to the alleged non-profit and recruited caregivers to work with disabled adults who resided at homes owned by the organization.
In reality, Wishes 4 Me was funded almost entirely by defrauding the Independent Care Waiver Program (ICWP), a Georgia Medicaid program intended to help disabled adults live independently in their homes. Through this program, Georgia Medicaid recipients with disabilities are able to hire their own caregivers to provide personal support services to them so they can live independently. Personal support services through the ICWP are required to be provided by the caregiver on a one-to-one basis to the Georgia Medicaid recipient. These caregivers are then paid directly with Georgia Medicaid funds.
Instead of allowing residents of Wishes 4 Me who were enrolled in the ICWP to hire and schedule their own caregivers, Robinette assumed control of residents’ participation in the program. She routinely forged residents’ names on documents submitted to the Department of Community Health and timesheets submitted to Acumen Fiscal Agent, LLC (Acumen), a payroll services company contracted with the Georgia Medicaid program. At various times, Ward, Braga, and Barton all participated in this scheme. Each would sign and submit timesheets to Acumen claiming they and other caregivers provided one-to-one personal support services to residents of Wishes 4 Me, when in fact they did not. Instead, Robinette instructed caregivers to provide services to multiple residents at a time, working in shifts. By this scheme, Robinette, Ward, Braga, and Barton were not only able to bill the Georgia Medicaid program for more hours than they actually spent with each resident, but also to be paid more than the hourly rate of pay for caregivers within the ICWP.
Robinette also assumed control of residents’ bank accounts and identifying information and used both to obtain additional funds and resources for herself and Wishes 4 Me. She did this through directly transferring money from residents’ bank accounts to her own personal bank accounts and accounts in the names of her other businesses, Star Vacations, Inc. and Accounting Options, Inc. and by using the residents’ names and other identifying information to apply for benefits from other state programs such as the Georgia Food Stamp Program without the residents’ knowledge.
This case was investigated and prepared for prosecution jointly by the Office of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Division and the Gwinnett County Police Department. Assistant Attorney General Amanda E. Love is prosecuting this case on behalf of the State of Georgia.
Members of the public should keep in mind that accused individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty.