South LA Women Sentenced to Prison for Health-Care Fraud Scheme

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Two former executives at a South Los Angeles company that offered substance-abuse treatment were sentenced today to prison for defrauding Medi-Cal by billing more than $500,000 for ineligible services.

Mesbel Mohamoud, 47, was sentenced to 18 months behind bars, while her mother-in-law, Erlinda Abella, 66, received a year and a day in federal prison. They were also ordered jointly liable for restitution of $260,101, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The women each pleaded guilty in separate hearings last year to a federal health-care fraud count.

Mohamoud and Abella were named in a 23-count indictment returned by a Los Angeles federal grand jury in March 2018, charging both Inglewood women with 21 counts of health-care fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft stemming from the scheme that ran from 2009 through 2015.

Mohamoud was the owner and executive director of The New You Center -- located in the Vermont Knolls neighborhood of South Los Angeles – while her mother-in-law, who co-founded the now-defunct company, was the firm's program director. TNYC had contracts to provide medically necessary substance- abuse treatment services through the Drug Medi-Cal program to adults and teenagers in Los Angeles County.

TNYC submitted bogus bills for counseling sessions that were not conducted at all, were not conducted at authorized locations, or did not comply with Drug Medi-Cal regulations regarding the length of sessions or the number of patients, according to prosecutors.

Mohamoud and Abella caused TNYC to bill for clients who did not have a substance abuse problem, to falsify documents related to services supposedly provided to clients and to forge client signatures on documents such as sign-in sheets, court documents show.

The charges primarily involve services provided to girls residing at Dimondale Adolescent Care Facility group homes in Lancaster, Long Beach and Carson -- facilities at which TNYC was not authorized to provide counseling.

TNYC submitted more than $500,000 in false and fraudulent claims for group and individual substance-abuse counseling services and was paid more than $260,000 on those claims, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Photo: Getty Images

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