An Arizona duo is charged with embezzling from a Tuscon healthcare system.
All embezzlement is a serious crime that should be prosecuted fully, but there is something particularly heinous about crimes that take advantage of the healthcare system. People who rely on care from the system can be put at risk when these systems are targeted, as was the case in Arizona recently. Taking money away from healthcare facilities compromises care models. This case involved a tribal organization being cheated out of millions, and two suspects have now been charged with a long list of crimes as a result.
The organization that was allegedly defrauded in this case is Apache Behavioral Health Services. The accused include Kevin McKenzie, the former CEO of the organization, along with Corina Martinez, who operated a company called Evolved Healthcare Inc. Over a period of several years, it is alleged that many millions of dollars were diverted to a shell company. Ultimately, the charges in this case include things like wire fraud, money laundering, theft of federal funds, and more.
The proceeds from the scam were divided up between McKenzie and Martinez, with several indulgent purchases being the end result, including a high-end vehicle and an expensive home, among other luxury items. Despite the millions of dollars that were moved from Apache Behavioral Health Services to Evolved Healthcare Inc., it is not believed that any services were ever rendered.
A pair of contracts were used to hide the movement of these funds, at least for a period of time. In excess of $32 million was moved to an organization called Helping Everyday Youth, with which McKenzie had an agreement. Then, an additional $14 was diverted towards McKenzie’s shell company. To attempt to cover up these crimes and avoid detection, McKenzie tried to convince witnesses to lie to investigators. It is alleged that the crimes were able to continue on for a period of eight years before authorities were able to catch on to the activity and put together a case to file charges.
With the massive sums of money that move around in the healthcare world, in general, it’s perhaps not surprising that this field is particularly vulnerable to illegal activities. Fraud is unfortunately quite common in healthcare currently, and the complex landscape of regulations and billing practices probably only adds to the issue. Given the opportunity to grab a portion of such a huge financial pie, people are proving willing to take chances on the crime, even if the risk of being caught and prosecuted is very real.
As with any criminal activity, the hope is always that stern punishments and aggressive prosecution will deter future potential criminals from following along the same lines. That doesn’t always work out, of course, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s yet to be seen if convictions will be secured in this case, however, the suspects are at least being taken to court where they will have the opportunity to defend themselves against these charges.