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Director of Suburban Chicago Autism Center Charged with Fraud

The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois is accusing the executive director of a southwest suburban autism center of engaging in fraud. Latrice Harrell runs the Champion Center for Autism and has been charged with filing fraudulent claims to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois for therapeutic services that did not take place.

Federal prosecutors allege that “Harrell fraudulently obtained at least $1.6 million” from the insurer. She has been charged in an indictment in U.S. District Court in Chicago with seven counts of health care fraud, as well as two counts of making false statements in a health care matter and two counts of aggravated ID theft.

According to documents filed in court, Harrell claimed that patients had been treated by the Oak Forest center’s behavioral analyst when she knew no such treatments had taken place. Prosecutors claim that Harrell used the names of the center’s therapist and analyst without their knowledge in order to file the insurance claims.

If she is convicted, the 46-year-old center director faces up a decade in federal prison for each count of health care fraud. Each count of making false statements carries a maximum possible sentence of five years, while the aggravated identity theft charge has a mandatory sentence of two years – a sentence that must be served after the sentence for the underlying offense, the prosecutor noted in a statement.

Another part of the statement from the prosecutor and FBI is worth noting as well: “The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt.” The federal government carries the burden of proof of its claims – defendants do not have to prove that they did not commit a crime.

Those facing similarly serious criminal charges should decline to speak to investigators until they have spoken with a Chicago criminal defense attorney experienced in white-collar defense in federal, state, county and city courts.

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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