For Immediate Release - June 28, 2013

Fall River Woman Indicted for Stealing More Than $230,000 From MassHealth in Multi-Year Scheme

Defendant’s Nephew Indicted for Committing Tax Fraud

FALL RIVER – A Fall River woman has been indicted for a multi-year scheme that defrauded more than $233,000 from the state’s Medicaid program by falsely billing for her brother’s personal care attendant (PCA) services, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. The woman’s nephew was also indicted in connection with the preparation of false Massachusetts tax returns as part of the alleged fraud.

Odete Costa, 75, of Fall River, was indicted by a Bristol County Grand Jury on charges of Larceny over $250 (2 counts), Medicaid False Claims (2 counts), and Aiding and Assisting in the Preparation or Presentation of a False Tax Return (1 Count). Her nephew, Carlos Esteves, 35, of Tiverton, R.I., was also indicted on charges of Aiding and Assisting in the Preparation or Presentation of a False Tax Return (1 Count). Costa and Esteves are scheduled to be arraigned in Fall River Superior Court on July 8, 2013.

“We allege that this defendant blatantly abused the state’s Medicaid system for a number of years in order to steal more than $233,000 from taxpayers through this elaborate scheme,” AG Coakley said. “Cheating the Medicaid system to obtain additional payment is not acceptable, and we are working to hold people accountable for these falsely billed services.”

From 2005 to 2011, Costa allegedly billed MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, for PCA services for her brother under the name of a person she knew who lived in Portugal at the time. Authorities also allege that Costa and Esteves set up a false address, using Esteves’ location in Rhode Island, for that person in Portugal to avoid Massachusetts tax penalties pertaining to mandatory health insurance.

In addition, authorities charge that Costa also billed MassHealth for personal care services for her brother under her own name while she vacationed in Bermuda in 2011. In total, Costa allegedly billed MassHealth more than $233,000 for services on false pretenses.

Authorities allege that Costa did use some of the money obtained by fraud to pay PCAs under-the-table but collected a substantial portion of the stolen funds for herself. Costa’s brother also received properly-billed care from legitimate PCAs.

Assistant Attorney General Kriss Basil is prosecuting the case. This case was investigated by MFD Investigator Robert Ames and the Boston Office of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General. The Bureau of Special Investigations of the Office of the State Auditor assisted the Attorney General’s investigation.

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