The former owner of a home health care company in Portsmouth was sentenced Wednesday to one year in federal prison for her role in an $863,600 Medicaid fraud.
Prosecutors had wanted 54-year-old Sandy Varzmanesh locked up for at least 2½ years while the defense wanted house arrest or probation.
Varzmanesh, formerly of P&S Home Health Care Solutions, pleaded guilty last September to one count of health care fraud.
According to court documents, Varzmanesh’s company was authorized to provide home health care and respite care services for Medicaid patients. To do so, however, the company was supposed to have a registered nurse review requests to ensure that the services were medically necessary.
Varzmanesh, also known as Sandy Vincent, didn’t always secure the registered nurse’s approval, though. Documents said Varzmanesh, a lesser-qualified Licensed Practical Nurse, sometimes forged an RN’s signature on the required paperwork.
The scheme stretched from about December 2010 through June 2016.Advertisement
In all, Varzmanesh billed Medicaid $764,826 for numerous patients who had not been assessed by registered nurses and were therefore not eligible for the services provided.
From June 2011 through June 2016, she also collected $98,774 for respite care services that were provided ineligible Medicaid recipients. Some of the patients lived in group homes with other P&S clients.
“This was systemic and routine over a period of years, not a onetime transgression,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Yusi wrote in court documents, arguing Varzmanesh was motivated by greed.
“Varzmanesh wanted money to support her lavish lifestyle, which included travel for her family and beauty and nail salons,” she said.
Defense attorney Trey Kelleter described his client as a “compassionate friend and mentor who has devoted herself to the care of others, both in her profession as a nurse and as a daughter who has shouldered, with love, the responsibility for taking care of her physically and mentally disabled mother.” He said she lives with her mother in a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment and works during the day when an aide is available to visit with her mother.
Providing the court several letters from family, friends and the loved ones of former patients, Kelleter asked the court to show his client mercy.
While federal sentencing guidelines recommended a sentence of at least 2½ years, he explained that was largely because they are based on the fraud’s gross proceeds. And that, he said, gives the world an out sized view of the crime at hand.
“A thief who takes $860,000 in cash from an account solely for personal gain receives the same points as Ms. Varzmanesh, who skirted eligibility requirements but whose business nonetheless provided actual services that benefited dozens and dozens of patients,” Kelleter said in court documents.
He described those services as “needed” and “life-enhancing.”
The argument swayed U.S. District Judge Henry C. Morgan Jr., who ultimately handed down the reduced sentence.
Sometimes these health care professionals partner with people in your very own community to commit their acts of fraud. These people could be your “friends”, neighbors or even “family”. Would you recognize health care fraud when you see it? What does it look like? What should you do when you see it? Sometimes health care fraud results in poor health out comes (where patients health deteriorates) and even death often costing the tax payers unspeakable amounts of money. Where is their mercy?
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