Deborah Branch, Bryan Harr, Melissa Harr Will All Serve Time in Federal Prison
Abingdon, VIRGINIA – Three Bristol, Virginia residents, who were previously convicted of healthcare fraud, were sentenced today in Federal Court, Acting United States Attorney Rick A. Mountcastle, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring and Nick DiGiulio, Special Agent in Charge, Philadelphia Regional Office for U.S. Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General announced.
Deborah Branch, 65, was sentenced today to 72 months in federal prison. In a pair of separate hearings today, Bryan Harr, 41, was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison and Melissa Harr, 49, was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison. The three previously pled guilty to federal healthcare conspiracy charges. Branch additionally pled guilty to wire fraud.
“This case shows that fraud committed against our federal and state health care benefit programs is more than just simple theft of government money, there is a sinister side to the greed that fuels the criminal acts of defendants like these,” Acting United States Attorney Mountcastle said today. “This type of greed brings physical and emotional devastation upon the innocent, vulnerable victims for whom essential services are denied, simply to satiate the greed of these defendants. In this case, children were forced to live in filth in a room without electricity. The United States Attorney’s Office, and our partners at the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, Health and Human Services and others, will continue to aggressively pursue fraudsters, like Branch and the Harrs, whose criminal actions bring harm to vulnerable victims.”
“Anyone who diverts public funds for their private benefit is stealing from all of us and undermining an important system that provides thousands of Virginians with needed medical services,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “A situation where people steal that money at the expense of their own disabled child is even more horrifying and unacceptable, and I’m glad to see these criminals brought to justice today. My award-winning Medicaid Fraud Unit and I will be relentless in holding accountable those who try to take advantage of our health care system.”
“It is shocking to imagine parents who would for many years neglect their disabled child and allow him to suffer horribly while they worked to steal taxpayer money meant to pay for the child’s much needed care,” said Special Agent in Charge Nick DiGiulio of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “We are satisfied that justice was served today, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to jail heartless criminals who prey on beneficiaries and our health care system.”
According to evidence presented at previous hearings, Bryan Harr Sr. and his wife, Melissa Harr, hired Branch to work with one of their children, who suffers from intellectual and physical disabilities and who qualifies for services paid for by Virginia Medicaid, including personal assistance, respite and residential support services. These services are available to qualified individuals pursuant to Virginia Medicaid’s Intellectual Disability (ID) waiver program. The ID waiver program is designed to provide critical services that enable a recipient to remain at home instead of being placed in an institution. Recipients or their guardians are permitted to hire workers of their own choosing to provide these services, which are paid for by Virginia Medicaid. Branch was paid through two different Virginia Medicaid contractors: Public Partnerships, LLC and ResCare (formerly known as Creative Family Solutions).
From January 2010 until September 2015, Branch, with the knowledge of Melissa Harr and Bryan Harr Sr., submitted time sheets claiming Branch was providing services for Harr’s disabled son when she was not. In exchange for assisting Branch in being paid for work she did not do, Branch paid the Harrs approximately $200 every two weeks. Virginia Medicaid’s Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) paid out $350,641.02 to the contractors based on these time sheets, of which $207,854.43 was paid to Branch. More importantly, the Harr’s disabled son did not receive the services he legitimately needed pursuant to the ID waiver program.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the Bristol Virginia Police Department. Special Assistant United States Attorney Janine M. Myatt, a Virginia Assistant Attorney General, prosecuted the case for the United States.