ATLANTA (CBS46) -- The founder of a Gwinnett County nonprofit is accused of using her organization for fraud.
Jennifer Lynn Robinette, the owner and operator of Wishes 4 Me, is charged with Medicaid fraud, forgery, exploitation, and identity fraud. Tonya Ward, Bethany Braga, and Ronnika Barton also face similar charges.
The CBS46 Bulldog team learned about the scheme last year, when the family of an alleged victim came forward. According to that family, Robinette coerced their loved one into opening a joint bank account with her, then transferred the victim's money into her personal and business bank accounts.
Investigators also say Robinette forged resident's names on Medicaid documents and submitted false timesheets to allegedly over-bill Medicaid on hours that were not actually worked.
The Georgia Attorney General's Office issued the following statement about the case:
ATLANTA, GA - Owner and operator of Wishes 4 Me Foundation, Inc., Jennifer Lynn Robinette was charged along with Tonya Joy Ward, Bethany Braga, and Ronnika Barton in connection with a scheme to allegedly obtain money to which they were not entitled from both the Georgia Medicaid program and disabled adults. Robinette is pending arrest while Ward, Braga, and Barton turned themselves in yesterday.
“Exploiting disabled adults in order to steal tax dollars is reprehensible and I commend both the Gwinnett County Police Department and our Medicaid Fraud Control Division for their work on this matter,” said Attorney General Chris Carr.
“The Gwinnett County Police Special Victims Unit is pleased to have worked with the State Attorney General's Office on this case,” said Corporal Wilbert Rundles, Public Information Officer for the Gwinnett County Police Department. “This months-long investigation involved more than 25 officers and detectives from Gwinnett County Police and more than 100 state employees from several agencies. The Gwinnett County Police Department remains vigilant in our commitment to the safety and security of our at-risk adults. We thank the State Attorney General's Office for their assistance.”
Jennifer Lynn Robinette owns and operates Wishes 4 Me Foundation, Inc., a corporation which advertises itself as providing “structured living for adults with disabilities” and assisting “disabled adults live a more active lifestyle.” Robinette actively solicited donations to the alleged non-profit and recruited caregivers to work with disabled adults who resided at homes owned by the organization.
In reality, Wishes 4 Me was funded almost entirely by defrauding the Independent Care Waiver Program (ICWP), a Georgia Medicaid program intended to help disabled adults live independently in their homes. Through this program, Georgia Medicaid recipients with disabilities are able to hire their own caregivers to provide personal support services to them so they can live independently. Personal support services through the ICWP are required to be provided by the caregiver on a one-to-one basis to the Georgia Medicaid recipient. These caregivers are then paid directly with Georgia Medicaid funds.
Instead of allowing residents of Wishes 4 Me who were enrolled in the ICWP to hire and schedule their own caregivers, Robinette assumed control of residents’ participation in the program. She routinely forged residents’ names on documents submitted to the Department of Community Health and timesheets submitted to Acumen Fiscal Agent, LLC (Acumen), a payroll services company contracted with the Georgia Medicaid program. At various times, Ward, Braga, and Barton all participated in this scheme. Each would sign and submit timesheets to Acumen claiming they and other caregivers provided one-to-one personal support services to residents of Wishes 4 Me, when in fact they did not. Instead, Robinette instructed caregivers to provide services to multiple residents at a time, working in shifts. By this scheme, Robinette, Ward, Braga, and Barton were not only able to bill the Georgia Medicaid program for more hours than they actually spent with each resident, but also to be paid more than the hourly rate of pay for caregivers within the ICWP.
Robinette also assumed control of residents’ bank accounts and identifying information and used both to obtain additional funds and resources for herself and Wishes 4 Me. She did this through directly transferring money from residents’ bank accounts to her own personal bank accounts and accounts in the names of her other businesses, Star Vacations, Inc. and Accounting Options, Inc. and by using the residents’ names and other identifying information to apply for benefits from other state programs such as the Georgia Food Stamp Program without the residents’ knowledge.
Jennifer Lynn Robinette, Tonya Joy Ward, Bethany Braga, and Ronnika Barton have the following charges pending against them:
• Two counts of Violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (Robinette, Ward, Braga, and Barton)
• Four counts of Medicaid Fraud (Robinette, Ward, Braga, and Barton)
• One count of Conspiracy to Defraud the State (Robinette, Ward, and Braga)
• Nineteen counts of False Writings (Robinette)
• Four counts of Forgery in the First Degree (Robinette, Ward, and Braga)
• Eight counts of Exploitation of a Disabled Adult (Robinette, Ward, Braga, and Barton)
• One count of Identity Fraud (Robinette)
Robinette, Ward, Braga, and Barton were previously indicted on these charges on February 27, 2019.