- Office of the Attorney General
- Office of the Attorney General
Media Contact for Chelmsford Couple Pleads Guilty In Connection With Medicaid Fraud Scheme To Exploit The Unhoused
Sabrina Zafar , Deputy Press Secretary
BOSTON — Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell’s office announced that a Chelmsford couple has today pleaded guilty in Middlesex Superior Court for their involvement in a scheme to falsely bill MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, by exploiting individuals experiencing homelessness.
John Wachira, age 56, and Joanne Wachira, age 64, both of Chelmsford, along with their home health company, Petra Health Care, pleaded guilty on September 21, 2023, to three counts of Medicaid false claims, two counts of larceny over $1,200, and one count of Medicaid kickbacks. The Wachiras were each sentenced to ten months of home confinement and three years of probation. As their conditions of probation, they were ordered to pay $100,000 to MassHealth, to refrain from owning, operating, or working in billing for any medical provider that does business with federal or state healthcare programs, and to have no contact with the witnesses in this case.
“As thousands of Massachusetts residents continue to rely on Medicaid to receive critical healthcare services, we must ensure that such public resources are used to benefit those that need it – not to line of the pockets of those that cheat the system,” said AG Campbell. “My office will continue to stand up for the public interest, especially for our most vulnerable, by holding such bad actors accountable.”
The defendants pleaded guilty to the charges set forth in December 2019 indictments of Petra Health Care and the Wachiras. In those indictments, the AG’s Office alleged that, from July 2015 through December 2017, the Wachiras recruited at least ten unhoused individuals to live in their house rent-free, but required them, as a condition of and in exchange for free housing, to be MassHealth members and sign up to receive Petra Health Care’s purported home health care services. The AG’s Office alleges that the individuals were required to sign false timesheets indicating that services like bathing, assistance getting dressed, and medication reminders, were being provided by Petra Health Care, or risk being removed from the house, even though many of the services had not been provided. The Wachiras and Petra Health Care then falsely billed MassHealth for such services.
The AG’s Office has previously taken action against Petra and the Wachiras in an unrelated civil matter. In 2018, they paid more than $217,000 in restitution and penalties to resolve unrelated allegations by the AG’s Fair Labor Division that the company failed to pay employees for overtime and travel time.
This case is being handled by Deputy Chief Kevin Lownds, Assistant Attorney General William Champlin IV, Senior Healthcare Fraud Investigator Shelby Stephens, and Paralegal Farris Al-Banaa, all of AG Campbell’s Medicaid Fraud Division. The Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided substantial assistance during the investigation and prosecution, as did MassHealth, the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG’s Office, and the AG’s Digital Evidence Lab.
The Massachusetts Medicaid Fraud Division receives 75 percent of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $5,542,963 for federal fiscal year 2023. The remaining 25 percent, totaling $1,847,641 for FY 2023, is funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.