Hamilton County Woman Charged With TennCare Fraud, ID Theft

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Hamilton County woman is charged with TennCare fraud and identity theft for obtaining medical treatment and using a TennCare member’s benefits to pay for them.

The Office of Inspector General announced the arrest of Deborah Faye Ellis, also known as Deborah Hanes, Deborah F. Lee, and Deborah Faye Lee, 58, of Chattanooga.  Ms. Ellis was being held at the Lee Arrendale State Prison in Georgia, and has been transported to Hamilton County, where she was served with the indictment.

A Hamilton County Grand Jury charged Ms. Ellis with three counts of TennCare fraud and three counts of identity theft.  She is accused of assuming the identity of a TennCare recipient in order to illegally obtain medical treatment on three separate occasions.

“Our mission is to protect the state’s Medicaid program from people trying to obtain benefits they’re not eligible to receive,” Acting Inspector General Robert White said. “We are committed to preserving TennCare for people who qualify for these important healthcare insurance benefits.”

Identity theft is a Class D felony that carries a maximum of four years in prison per charge.  Fraudulently obtaining TennCare medical benefits is a Class E felony that carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison per charge. District Attorney General William H. Cox, III, will prosecute.

The OIG, which is separate from TennCare, began full operation in February 2005 and has investigated cases leading to over $3.5 million paid in restitution and recoupment to TennCare, with a total estimated cost avoidance of over $173 million for the TennCare program, according to latest figures.  To date, 2,151 people have been charged with TennCare fraud.

Through the OIG Cash for Tips Program established by the Legislature, Tennesseans can get cash rewards for TennCare fraud tips that lead to convictions.  Anyone can report suspected TennCare fraud by calling 1-800-433-3982 toll free from anywhere in Tennessee, or log on to www.tn.gov/tnoig/ and follow the prompts that read "Report TennCare Fraud."

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