Two Georgia Dietitians Charged with Medicaid Fraud

BRUNSWICK, GA—Schella Hope, 47, a licensed dietitian whose business, Hope Nutritional Services, was located in Brunswick, Georgia, and Arlene Murrell, 65, a licensed dietician whose business, Quality Nutrition Services, was located in Newnan, Georgia, were charged with various health care fraud offenses in a 45-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury sitting in Savannah, Georgia, earlier this month.

The indictment alleges that Hope and Murrell conspired to fraudulently bill the Georgia Medicaid program for nutrition services that were purported to have been provided to children enrolled in Head Start centers located across Georgia. The indictment also alleges that between January 2005 and September 2011, Hope submitted bills to Medicaid for these services totaling almost $4 million.

Hope made her first court appearance in this case on Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Tallahassee, Florida, while Murrell’s initial court appearance occurred yesterday at the federal courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia. A trial date has not yet been scheduled.

United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver said, “As the Georgia Medicaid program is jointly funded by the United States government and the State of Georgia, it is fitting that the investigation and prosecution of this case has been a team effort by this office, federal law enforcement agencies, and the Georgia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. The United States Attorney’s Office and its partners are committed to protecting the financial well-being of government-funded health programs.”

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said, “Fraud of taxpayer monies will not be tolerated in any form. Head Start is a program intended to offer assistance to children from low income families. The allegations that these defendants used the Head Start program and children in need to assist in their scam is especially appalling.”

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