WORCESTER – A former Worcester teacher who allegedly stole $2.7 million by filing false Medicaid claims was arrested Wednesday.
Authorities said Hellen Kiago, 47, of Sturbridge, through her health care company, routinely over-billed and falsely billed for services that were not authorized.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office began an investigation after receiving complaints from several of Ms. Kiago’s former employees, alleging misconduct and fraudulent billing practices.
On Sept. 28, a grand jury returned indictments against Ms. Kiago and her company, Lifestream Healthcare Alliance LLC, located at 37 Highland St. The company also operated in Dracut. The charges are five counts of Medicaid false claims and one count of larceny over $250 by false pretenses.
According to the indictments, since at least July 2015, Ms. Kiago’s company billed MassHealth for home health provided to patients that were not authorized by a physician. Ms. Kiago also allegedly instructed an employee to forge physician signatures on certain patient plans of care that were not signed. In cases where a physician did authorize services, she allegedly billed for more hours than was authorized.
She also allegedly retained more than allowed from payments received from MassHealth.
At Ms. Kiago’s arraignment Wednesday in Worcester Superior Court, Assistant Attorney General Nita Klunder said that two days after authorities with a search warrant went to the offices in Worcester and Dracut on Dec. 1, Ms. Kiago opened a bank account in the name of her young daughter. She deposited some of the money in that account. In January, Ms. Kiago allegedly transferred $1 million to an account in Kenya. She wired another $500,000 to the Kenyan account two months later.
Ms. Klunder said the father of Ms. Kiago’s daughter lives in Kenya.
Within two weeks of the search, Ms. Kiago married fellow Lifestream employee Cheyne Johnson. She received her green card in June. According to the Massachusetts secretary of state’s website, Mr. Johnson is also listed as the clerk and a director of Streamlife Agape International Inc., a nonprofit that Ms. Kiago allegedly operates at the 37 Highland St. office.
As of July 28, authorities allegedly found $233,000 in the daughter’s bank account, and an additional $483,000 in two other bank accounts. There was also about $6,000 in her husband’s account.
Ms. Kiago entered a plea of not guilty at her arraignment.
Defense attorney John George Molloy of North Smithfield said his client came from Kenya to the United States on a scholarship in 1998. He said she has two master’s degrees, including an MBA from Bentley University in Waltham. He said she was a teacher in Worcester from 2001 to 2014. He said Ms. Kiago also owns a transportation company. She owns Lifestream Transportation at 50 Elm St., Southbridge, according to the secretary of state’s website. Mr. Molloy said his client had never been arrested.
Ms. Kiago’s mother, who was in the courtroom, later told a reporter that she had been in the country visiting her daughter the past two months. She seemed confused by the court proceedings. She said she was surprised when authorities arrested her daughter Wednesday morning. After the arraignment, she sat on a bench outside the courtroom waiting for her daughter’s husband to come back to pick her up.
Mr. Molloy said his client’s husband was not in court because he had a class that he could not miss. He was later in the court clerk’s office to bail his wife out of jail. Judge Janet Kenton-Walker set bail at $100,000 cash or $1 million with surety. Ms. Kiago was ordered to surrender her passport and to call the Probation Department weekly. The case was continued to Dec. 6.