Kansas City Couple, Counseling Business Face Charges They Defrauded State of More Than $214,000

July 28, 2004

A Kansas City couple who own and operate a counseling service are facing 20 felony counts of stealing, Medicaid fraud and forgery for allegedly defrauding the Missouri Medicaid program and the Division of Family Services’ Children’s Treatment Services Program of more than $214,000.

Carri Anne Ellis (DOB – 11/2/70) and her husband, Brian J. Ellis (DOB 4/13/58), were charged in an indictment handed down by a Jackson County grand jury at the request of Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon and Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sanders. The indictment also names the couple’s business, Change of Heart Inc., as a defendant.

Carri Ellis is president of Change of Heart, and Brian Ellis is vice president. Carri Ellis and the business were arraigned in front of Jackson County Circuit Judge John O’Malley; Brian Ellis’ arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 2.

The indictment charges the Ellises and Change of Heart with 12 counts of making a false statement to receive a health care payment from the Missouri Medicaid program; four counts of stealing by deceit in excess of $25,000; and three counts of forgery.

Carri Ellis also faces an additional charge of stealing by deceit in excess of $750. All the charges are in connection with an alleged scheme designed to receive payments from the Medicaid program and Children’s Treatment Services for counseling services that were not provided or were provided by non-qualified therapists.

One of the probable cause statements filed with the indictment states that in August 2002, Change of Heart and Carri Ellis entered into a contract with Jackson County Family Court to provide counseling services at several Kansas City area youth residential group homes. The contract called for Change of Heart to provide counseling services to Medicaid-eligible adolescents at the homes.

The statement alleges that beginning on or about Sept. 6, 2002, the defendants submitted false claims to the Department of Social Services, Division of Medical Services for counseling services allegedly provided to Medicaid recipients at the group homes.

According to the probable cause statement, Medicaid paid $192,010.50 to Change of Heart based on the false claims. Another probable cause statement alleges Carri Ellis defrauded Children’s Treatment Services of an additional $22,312.78.

Stealing by deceit of at least $25,000 is a class B felony, with each count punishable by no less than five and up to 15 years in prison. Forgery is a class C felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Stealing by deceit of at least $750 is also a class C felony. Causing to be made a false statement to receive a health care payment is a class D felony, punishable by up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

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