2 dieticians charged with Medicaid fraud

BRUNSWICK, Ga. - A licensed dietician whose business, Hope Nutritional Services, was located in Brunswick and a licensed dietician whose business, Quality Nutrition Services, was located in Newnan were charged with various health care fraud offenses in a 45-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury sitting in Savannah earlier this month.

The indictment alleges that 47-year-old Schella Hope and 65-year-old Arlene Murrell conspired to fraudulently bill the Georgia Medicaid program for nutrition services that were purported to have been provided to children enrolled in Head Start centers located across Georgia. The indictment also alleges that between January 2005 and September 2011, Hope submitted bills to Medicaid for these services totaling nearly $4 million.

Hope made her first court appearance in this case on Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Tallahassee, Fla., while Murrell's first court appearance occurred Thursday at the federal courthouse in Brunswick. A trial date has not yet been scheduled.

If convicted, Hope and Murrell both face a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment for the conspiracy charge, while Hope also faces 10 years imprisonment for each of the 19 counts of health care fraud, and two years imprisonment for each of the 25 counts of aggravated identity theft. Each of these charges also carries a fine of up to $250,000.

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