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Former Arkansas official charged with Medicaid fraud

June 30, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A close associate of a lobbyist who pleaded guilty in a corruption probe involving former Arkansas lawmakers has been arrested on felony charges of defrauding the state’s Medicaid program by $2.2 million.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Friday that Robin Raveendran had been arrested by agents from her office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit on two felony counts of Medicaid fraud. Raveendran is a former executive vice president and analyst for Preferred Family Healthcare, a Missouri-based Medicaid provider. He’s accused of coordinating an effort which reimbursed the company for more than 20,000 illegally billed mental health services.

Raveendran was released from the Independence County jail on $250,000 bond on Thursday. He did not immediately return a message Thursday morning.

Rutledge said that Raveendran, a former state Medicaid official, used his background and knowledge to “target vulnerabilities” in the system.

“I will not tolerate people stealing from the programs designed to support Arkansas’ disadvantaged and disabled,” Rutledge said at a news conference at her office.

Shortly after the charges were announced, the Department of Human Services announced it was suspending Medicaid payments to Preferred Family Healthcare and planned to terminate non-Medicaid contracts it has with the firm for mental health, substance abuse and other services they provide. DHS said it anticipated moving those services to other providers and terminating the contracts would be completed within 30 to 60 days.

Preferred Family Healthcare said Friday that it’s appealing the state’s decision to suspend the payments.

Raveendran worked for PFH from March 24, 2014 until he was terminated in December 2017 by the nonprofit, according to an arrest affidavit. Rutledge said during most of his time at the company, Raveendran worked directly under Rusty Cranford, a lobbyist and former executive with the company who admitted earlier this month to a multimillion dollar bribery and embezzlement scheme.

Cranford admitted in federal court documents to paying bribes to two former state lawmakers and a legislator identified only as “Arkansas Senator A.” Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson’s attorney has acknowledged his client is the lawmaker referred to, but has denied the allegations. Hutchinson, who is the nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, has not been charged in the probe.

The arrest was announced two days after Rutledge said she was hiring investigators to probe corruption cases in response to the Cranford case and other probes over the past year.

The arrest affidavit said investigators don’t believe Raveendran acted alone and that most of the fraudulent claims came from Preferred Family Healthcare’s Batesville office.

PFH said it has been cooperating extensively with the investigation and said the charges show a “concerted effort” by Cranford and a small group of former leaders who are no longer employed at the nonprofit.

“We understand this is an ongoing process and likely not the last action taken against former employees and vendors,” PFH said in a statement. “We continue to cooperate with authorities as they follow the facts and the evidence, including information we are providing.”

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