Both my law enforcement and legal career started in New Orleans. The city was rife with corruption back then and has not improved much over the last 30 years. It’s a shame; the people who live and work there are some of the nicest and hard working people I have met. Still, there is a small minority that thinks fraud and greed trumps hard work.
Every year I return to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras. This year I watched one of the final parades of the season, that of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, Zulu for short. Leaving aside the politicians that often march with Zulu, the club – or “Krewe” – is probably the most diverse and “common man” of the many parade organizations. I mention this because it gives background to a story that just appeared in the New Orleans Times Picayune. A former Queen of Zulu has been indicted for Medicare fraud.
Lisa Crinel, a former Zulu Queen and a prominent African American businesswoman is tied to a massive $30 million Medicare fraud scheme according to the Justice Department.
The indictment lists Crinel as the owner of Abide Home Health Services. Worse, another former Zulu Queen, Sheila Mathieu, was also indicted. Media reports say she is the mother of professional football player with the same name. (The player, Tyrann Mathieu is not implicated in the case.)
The indictment says Crinel and employee Sheila Mathieu and many others conspired to cause “fraudulent certifications and recertifications of medically unnecessary home health services for ineligible Medicare beneficiaries, the production of fraudulent documentation to support medically unnecessary home health services, the submission and concealment of fraudulent and false claims to Medicare and the diversion of proceeds of fraud to [their] personal benefit.”
The feds also say that Crinel also committed wire fraud by making a false claim from the BP Deepwater Horizon program. She allegedly created phony payroll records suggesting her daughter lost wages at a banquet hall owned by Crinel even though the daughter was attending college out of state.
The indictment is new and was just unsealed. The few defendants that have retained counsel are claiming their innocence including Crinel. (All are innocent until proven guilty.) By our quick calculations, if convicted Crinel faces over 250 years in prison while Mathieu faces 35 years.
UPDATE: Crinel and others involved in this case have been sentenced or went to trial. See a full update on our New Orleans Medicare Fraud information page.
We don’t know yet how the fraud was uncovered but typically it’s because of whistleblowers, men and women who grow tired of fraud. Unless the whistleblowers have already filed federal lawsuits under the False Claims Act, however, getting an award will be difficult.
The False Claims Act, a Civil War era statute, allows whistleblowers in Medicare fraud cases to earn an award of up to 30% of whatever the government collects from wrongdoers. It’s not unusual for whistleblowers to earn $1 million or more. Last year our clients earned over $100 million in awards.
In closing, I note New Orleans musical legend Professor Longhair’s classic Mardi Gras song, Go to Mardi Gras whose words include:
“You will see the Zulu King
Down on St. Claude and Dumaine
You know, you’ll see the Zulu King
Down on St. Claude and Dumaine
And if you drive to Oakdale
I’m sure you’ll see the Zulu Queen”
Perhaps next year parade watchers will be singing:
“An if you drive to Pollock [Louisiana’s federal peniteniary] I’m sure you’ll see the Zulu Queen”
Think you have information about Medicaid or Medicare fraud? Give us a call. We help ordinary people become heroes, stop fraud and earn the maximum awards possible.
To qualify for an award, you must have inside or “original source” information about fraud to a government program such as Medicare. You must file a sealed complaint in federal court. Picking up a phone and calling a Medicare fraud hotline doesn’t get you an award.
For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at . All inquiries kept strictly confidential. See also our New Orleans Medicare fraud information page.
MahanyLaw – America’s Whistleblower Lawyers.