Criminal Justice News

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Founder of Mental Health Clinic Convicted of Health Care Fraud and Distribution of Controlled Substances

PHILADELPHIA—A federal jury yesterday convicted Jo Benoit, a.k.a. Elissa Jo Benoit, 77, of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, of 76 counts of health care fraud, aggravated identity theft, distribution of controlled substances, and distribution of controlled substances to minors, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. Benoit was the CEO and founder of a mental health clinic called Transition Phase III. She opened the clinic in 2008 and advertised it as a trauma-dpecific mental health clinic, directed at victims of trauma, children, and members of the military and their families.

Though she was not a psychiatrist, Benoit portrayed herself as a psychiatrist to the patients of the clinic. Using the prescription pads of two actual psychiatrists, Benoit provided forged prescriptions to the patients at the clinic and medicated the patients that she purported to be treating. Benoit also wrote prescriptions to children, one as young as 4 years old. In furtherance of her crime, she also used the name and unique identifying information of an actual psychiatrist to bill insurance companies for patient visits. From February 4, 2009, until the clinic was closed after a search warrant was executed in July 2011, the defendant submitted thousands of bills to insurance companies, charging them more than $500,000, as if the patients were being seen by a psychiatrist.

Benoit faces in excess of 100 months in prison, a mandatory minimum sentence of three years, a fine of up to $48 million, mandatory restitution, and three years of supervised release. U.S. District Norma Shapiro scheduled sentencing for September 19, 2012.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Department of Criminal Investigative Services, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew J.D. Hogan

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