2 Georgia dieticians charged with Medicaid fraud - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

2 Ga. dieticians charged with Medicaid fraud

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BRUNSWICK, GA (WTOC) -

Two women are charged with Medicaid fraud connected to nearly $4 million in bills submitted for nutrition services that were purported to have been provided to children at Head Start centers, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia.

Schella Hope, 47, is a licensed dietician, and owned of the Brunswick-based Hope Nutritional Services.

Arlene Murrell, 65, is a licensed dietician and owned of Quality Nutrition Services in Newnan.

They're charged with healthcare fraud and aggravated identity theft after a 45-count indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in Savannah, Georgia earlier this month.  

They're accused of conspiring to fraudulently bill the Georgia Medicaid program from January 2005 to September 2011.

Hope made her first appearance in federal court Wednesday in Tallahassee, Fla.

Murrell's first federal court appearance was Thursday in Brunswick. No trial date has yet been scheduled.

"As the Georgia Medicaid program is jointly funded by the United States government and the State of Georgia, it is fitting that the investigation and prosecution of this case has been a team effort by this office, federal law enforcement agencies, and the Georgia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.  The United States Attorney's Office and its partners are committed to protecting the financial well-being of government-funded health programs," said U.S. Attorney Edward J. Tarver in a statement.

If convicted, they face up to 10 years in prison on each of the 19 counts of healthcare fraud and two years in prison for each of the 25 counts of aggravated identity theft. Each of these charges also carries a fine of up to $250,000.

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