By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s Attorney General has filed felony fraud charges against a 51-year-old woman.

With an aging population and soaring hospital costs, home healthcare delivers efficient medical care.

That is what Barbara Currin was in business to do, focusing on caregiving to Twin Cities patients that receive medical assistance from the state.

“This was a coordinated scheme to bilk the taxpayers of Minnesota,” Attorney General Lori Swanson said.

She announced a criminal complaint charging Currin with seven felony counts of racketeering and theft by swindle.

Currin was convicted in 2010 on similar charges of defrauding the state’s medical assistance program, and is currently serving time in the Shakopee women’s prison on a parole violation.

The criminal complaint alleges Currin and seven associates kept the businesses going while she was in and out of custody, billing the state $2.6 million in fraudulent medical assistance reimbursement between 2012 and 2015.

They were allegedly charging for care that either was never given to patients or billed using forged signatures of patients and nurse providers.

“Some patients that we’ve interviewed, two have told us their names were forged on documentation,” Swanson said. “There was a patient who told us that she was listed as stage-4 kidney disease patient with end-stage kidney disease, even though she didn’t have that condition.”

Eighteen search warrants were executed during the state’s investigation, uncovering a damaging series of emails. They apparently caught Currin and seven co-defendants in a coordinated effort to cover up her involvement with the home health companies.

Currin was barred from engaging in any medical assistance-related work under terms of her sentencing back in 2010, and her nursing license was revoked.

Swanson says investigators uncovered more than 100,000 pages of documents and emails that will prove the overbilling, kickbacks to patients and forged signatures.

While Currin was in and out of detention, she was able to avoid detection by giving her nursing agencies eight different names, registering them to her family members and an acquaintance.

Federal and state laws both require home health agencies engaging in this work to keep detailed records of both billed services and reimbursements.

“So the burden’s really on the agency to prove that they delivered it, and when we did these search warrants at the company locations and storage lockers, that proof wasn’t there,” Swanson said.

Currin and her co-defendants could each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine for each count if found guilty of the felony charges.

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