The Illinois Department of Public Health is a key agency in the oversight of nursing homes and the enforcement of laws and regulations over those facilities. Thus it is only fair to expect that the officials and employees at this vital state agency are trustworthy and do what is in the best interest of the state’s citizens and residents when it comes to public health. This unfortunately cannot be said for a particular IDPH official who will be going behind bars for two years after authorities uncovered a multi-million dollar kickback scheme to take money from a federal grant program.
The Fraud and Kickbacks
In September 2014, the former IDPH official, Roxanne Jackson, had already pleaded guilty to federal charges of bribery, theft, and tax evasion. She served as chief human resources officer for IDPH during 2003 and 2004, and subsequently went to work for her brother’s security firm as well as to consult for multiple non-profit groups that received state grant money related to work with IDPH. However, Jackson’s prior role at IDPH laid the foundation for immense conflicts of interest, as the agency paid her brother’s security firm approximately $2 million to interview and perform criminal background checks of nursing home residents across the state.
Jackson kicked back more than 10% to the IDPH chief of staff, Quinshaunta Golden for directing the contract to her brother’s firm. For the second part of this scheme, Golden also arranged for a local businessman, Leon Dingle, to hire Jackson for consulting services. Her remuneration came out of over $700,000 in state grant money intended for Dingle-affiliated non-profit groups that address cancer and AIDS in minority communities, but which instead was routed to pay Jackson for those services. Apparently Jackson agreed to kick back half of the grant money to Golden for getting her the gig, which would effectively route state money back to the high-ranking state official. And for the cherry on top, Jackson filed fake tax returns leaving out over $900,000 in income for about four years, evading over $170,000 in taxes.
A U.S. District Judge ordered Jackson to serve 25 months in a federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for her role in the kickback scheme, as well as to make restitution by paying back about $1.1 million to IDPH. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, prosecutors asked for a more lenient sentence because Jackson cooperated in the government’s broader probe into the wrongdoing that allowed the U.S. attorney’s office to take down multiple people also implicated in the theft. Dingle, for his part, was convicted along with his wife for stealing $3.4 million in state grant money, and Golden pleaded guilty to theft, bribery, embezzlement, and obstruction of justice, receiving a sentence of eight years in federal prison. Other individuals involved have pleaded guilty.
This case is encouraging in that we know the Justice Department and U.S. attorneys’ offices are vigilant over big money fraud in the healthcare industry. We have already seen takedowns over Medicare and Medicaid fraud, including the most recent massive nationwide arrests of over 200 people. Kickbacks comprise a common problem in healthcare, including when it comes to nursing homes, hence why we have statutes specifically addressing such situations. It is of course disturbing to see people treat taxpayer dollars and the healthcare industry and nursing home sector as vehicles to enrich themselves, and we can only hope that the bad apples will be rooted out and the good ones in charge of our health, safety, and treasury.
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