Gazette file photo
CHARLESTON, W.Va. --
The former owner of a St. Albans elder-care provider will spend just under four years in prison for participating in a scheme that bilked more than $2.2 million from Medicaid.
U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston on Thursday sentenced former Golden Heart In Home Care Inc. owner Shida Jamie to 46 months in prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Jamie, 63, admitted last year to hiring convicted felons to take care of patients inside their homes and falsifying documents to hide their criminal records from Medicaid auditors. She also directed staffers to manipulate transportation records and billed the federal program for mileage that was not driven.
"Your honor, I want to apologize for the problems I've caused everyone," Jamie said at Thursday's sentencing. "In the past three years, it was the worst of my life."
Jamie said that despite the charges against her, her in-home care business was known for providing quality care to patients. She never received complaints of abuse.
"I give them the best care that any family member could have given," she said. "I treat them like my own family."
Jamie also accused federal agents of harassing her son, former tennis pro Jimmy Jamie. She said he was wrongly accused of having a part in the fraud scheme.
The original indictment alleged that Jimmy Jamie worked at Golden Heart and that his mother fraudulently altered his training documents and falsely billed Medicaid for services he rendered.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Thomas said Thursday that investigators based the allegations on an edition of Parade magazine, which listed Jamie as a Golden Heart executive who earned a $2.2 million salary. He was shown on the cover of the issue, posing between two Mercedes Benz cars.
According to a criminal complaint filed against Jimmy Jamie last year, he failed to respond to a subpoena to testify against his mother. His sister told a federal agent that he was on a road trip with his girlfriend, somewhere between San Diego and Las Vegas. It's not clear where Jimmy Jamie lived at the time.
Prosecutors dropped the charges when Shida Jamie agreed to plead guilty.
Jamie's lawyer, Gary Collias, said Thursday that there was no doubt that Golden Heart was out of compliance with Medicaid rules, but noted that his client hired about 500 employees during the period she was in business and was probably over her head at one point.
"I don't really believe that this is a case where the defendant formed Golden Heart with the idea of forming some kind of fraud scheme," he said.
Jamie said that while she falsely billed Medicaid, she did not misuse the funds.
Johnston said programs such as Medicaid are rife with fraud and that he wants Jamie's sentence to be a deterrent for those with aims of abusing the system.
"You should have known better," he said.
Reach Zac Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5189.