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Owners of Hammond Personal Care Business Plead Guilty to Defrauding the State’s Medicaid Program and Evading State Taxes

Couple ordered to pay more than $3.5 million in restitution

BATON ROUGE —Owners of a Hammond personal care business have pleaded guilty for their role in operating a criminal enterprise designed to siphon dollars from the Louisiana Medicaid Program and evade paying state taxes, announced the Louisiana Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) and the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR).

Cassandra N. Dangerfield, 55, pleaded guilty on Friday to one felony count of racketeering and two felony counts of state tax evasion. Her husband and business partner, 61-year-old Eric Dangerfield, who also serves on the Tangipahoa Parish School Board, entered a guilty plea to six counts of misdemeanor theft and two misdemeanor counts of tax evasion.

The Dangerfields, owners of 1st Thessalonians Community Programs Inc., had operated and billed the Louisiana Medicaid Program more than $18 million from 2002 to 2009.  The Attorney General’s MFCU first opened its criminal investigation into the operation of 1st Thessalonians Community Programs, Inc., in early 2006.  Investigators discovered that 1st Thessalonians through Cassandra Dangerfield filed numerous false claims for personal care services against the Louisiana Medicaid Program.  Cassandra Dangerfield then used the fraudulently obtained proceeds to pay the couple’s salaries, buy property and luxury vehicles, pay college tuition for their adult sons, fund Eric Dangerfield’s school board campaign and pay for other personal expenses.  As the investigation unfolded, investigators uncovered evidence that indicated the couple filed false tax returns in order to avoid paying taxes on income derived from their personal care business.

“We are finding that when these fraudulent business owners cheat our Medicaid Program, they are often cheating on their taxes too,” said Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.  “This type of deceptive behavior goes hand in hand.”

The Louisiana Department of Justice works closely with the Department of Revenue on tax fraud cases, but this is the first of its kind involving Medicaid service providers.  The attorney general’s MFCU is bolstering its partnership with LDR in an effort to stamp out tax fraud in the Medicaid services arena.

“Tax fraud doesn’t just cheat the government and the taxpayers,” Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield said. “It compromises the integrity of programs like Medicaid that provide valuable services to our citizens. Our partnership with the Attorney General’s Office to crack down on fraud is helping to restore and strengthen the public trust.”

As part of their guilty plea, Cassandra Dangerfield received a 14-year suspended sentence, and was placed on five years of active supervised probation for the three felony charges.  Eric Dangerfield received a 4-year suspended sentence for the eight misdemeanor charges.  He is also required to resign from serving on the school board by Aug. 7.  Under the terms of the agreement, the Dangerfields will pay $3,517,200 in restitution, fines and penalties for the racketeering and theft charges. In addition the Dangerfields have agreed to forfeit interest in their Hammond home, a shopping center owned by the couple located at 707 Coleman Avenue in Hammond and four luxury vehicles. The couple will be barred for life from owning or seeking employment with any entity that receives Medicaid or Medicare funding.  Eric and Cassandra Dangerfield will also pay the Louisiana Department of Revenue $74,174.95 for back taxes and investigative costs in relation to the tax evasion charges.

The racketeering and theft case was investigated by the Louisiana Attorney General’s MFCU.  The tax evasion investigation was led by LDR.  AAG Kathleen Petersen prosecuted the cases for the attorney general’s office.

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