GREEN BELT, Maryland – A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging eight people, including the president, vice president, and chief financial and strategy officer of a company that provided medical billing and coding services on contracts and an employee of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud and related charges, in connection with a scheme to defraud WRNMMC and the Defense Health Agency (DHA). The indictment was delivered on March 17, 2022 and unsealed today upon the arrest of three defendants. Charged in the indictment are:
- Akbar Masood, 59, of Great Falls, Virginia;
- Michelle O. Peebles, 48, of Riverdale, Mayland;
- Harriett Jackson, aka “Harriett Soumah,” 49, of Glenarden, Maryland;
- Judith Russ, 58, of Washington, DC;
- Rhonda Paul, 46, of Washington, DC;
- Wesley Williams, 47, of Takoma Park, Maryland;
- Bagnon Jaques Titi, 44, of Riverdale, Maryland; and
- Alfred Antonio Duncan, 44, of White Plains, Maryland.
Masood, Peebles and Jackson are scheduled to appear for the first time this afternoon in Greenbelt U.S. District Court. The other defendants are scheduled to appear for the first time later today or on April 8, 2022.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge Scott Moreland of the Major Procurement Fraud Field Office, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID); Special Agent in Charge Christopher Dillard of the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service – Mid-Atlantic Field Office (DCIS); Special Agent in Charge Alison F. Zavada of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), Washington Field Office; and Acting Inspector General Rene Febles of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Office of Inspector General (WMATA OIG).
According to the 12-count indictment, Masood was co-owner and “chief strategist” of Company A, a Virginia-based company that served as the prime contractor for medical support services at WRNMMC and to DHA. Peebles was site manager at Company A. Jackson was president, Peebles was vice president, and Masood was “director of finance and strategy” at Company B, headquartered in Tysons, Va., which primarily provided medical billing and coding services on government contracts. .
The indictment alleges that beginning at least December 2016, Masood, Peebles and Jackson established HMA Solutions as a Delaware limited liability company, headquartered in Riverdale, Maryland, to fire leveraged WRNMMC’s increased need for contract medical coders. Using his authority within Company A, Masood allegedly subcontracted work to HMA on Company A’s contract with WRNMMC to provide medical coding support without disclosing his involvement in HMA to the co-owners of Company A. Masood, Peebles and Jackson allegedly used the stolen identities of real people, including accredited medical coders, to demonstrate that HMA had the ability to perform medical coding assessments, commentary, and training services as a contractor to the Company A. The indictment alleges that the defendants used the forged signature of a victim, who was a credentialed medical coder, to sign consulting agreements with Company A and represent that other victims of theft credentials would do the work. Additionally, the indictment alleges that Masood, Peebles, and Jackson generated false billable hours using the names of identity theft victims that they billed to Company A, which then billed those hours to WRNMMC. Russ, a WRNMMC official, would then check the work done by the non-existent coders. According to the indictment, beginning no later than January 2017, Russ was regularly paid by Peebles or Company B and did not disclose that income or outside employment to WRNMMC officials.
According to the indictment, Masood, Peebles, and Jackson ran a subsequent WRNMMC contract with Company A for in-person coding support from highly skilled coders (CDI specialists), who are paid at a higher rate, to HMA. as a subcontractor. Masood, Peebles and Jackson would then have billed Company A – and therefore WRNMMC – for CDI specialist hours, none of which were ever provided.
As detailed in the indictment, Peebles and Jackson then recruited Paul, Williams, Tweety and Duncan to pose as medical coders and sign consultancy deals with Company A, although none of them did. had any experience or credentials as medical coders. The indictment alleges that Paul, Williams, Tweety and Duncan repeatedly submitted falsified medical coding bills, claiming to process thousands of encounters each month and causing Company A to bill WRNMMC over a million dollars for their false statements alone.
According to the indictment, between 2017 and 2019, the defendants obtained approximately $3.3 million from the scheme to defraud WRNMMC and DHA.
If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. All defendants except Russ also face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for each of eight counts of wire fraud. Masood, Peebles and Jackson each face a mandatory sentence of two years in federal prison, consecutive to any other sentences handed down, for each of two counts of aggravated identity theft, and Russ faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for participated in the scheme, which was a conflict of interest with his federal job. Actual sentences for federal crimes are generally lower than the maximum sentences. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
An indictment is not a verdict of guilty. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in subsequent criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended Army CID, DCIS, NCIS and WMATA OIG for their work in the investigation. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam K. Ake and Rajeev R. Raghavan, who are prosecuting the federal case.
For more information about the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and the resources available to report fraud, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md /report-fraud.