Thursday, August 14, 2008

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CORPUS CHRISTI HEARING AID PROVIDER PLEADS GUILTY, REQUIRED TO PAY $700,000 IN MEDICAID RESTITUTION

CORPUS CHRISTI – A Corpus Christi hearing aid provider who pleaded guilty Monday to Medicaid fraud was sentenced to 90 days in jail as a condition of his 10-year suspended prison sentence. In addition, George Harkey Dickson, 57, was ordered to repay $700,000 for defrauding the taxpayer-funded Medicaid program.

Dickson, owner of Dickson Hearing Aids Center and a fitter and dispenser of hearing aids, was charged with first-degree Medicaid fraud involving more than $200,000 in taxpayer funds last October. He was also charged with 19 counts of theft by a governmental contractor of over $1,500 but less than $20,000, all second-degree felonies. According to state investigators, he received the Medicaid reimbursements from October 2005 through April 2007.

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George Dickson
George Dickson

Nueces County District Judge Manuel Banales also sentenced Dickson to 1,000 hours of community service, and Dickson will be permanently excluded from participating in any government-funded health care system.

“This defendant was charged with defrauding taxpayers,” Attorney General Abbott said. “The Office of the Attorney General will continue aggressively cracking down on fraud in the Medicaid program. We are grateful to the FBI and the Nueces County Sheriff’s Department for their assistance in this investigation.”

Based on billing paperwork and interviews, the Attorney General’s investigators found that Dickson billed Medicaid extensively for services and products never delivered and employed unlicensed persons to fit and dispense hearing aids. These individuals also performed hearing tests on Medicaid patients. In addition, Dickson allegedly fitted and dispensed hearing aids from a local flea market on weekends, which is not an approved, licensed facility.

The Nueces County District Attorney’s Office and Assistant Attorney General Rodney Boyles prosecuted this case.

In 2006 alone, the Texas Medicaid program cost more than $17 billion. As the state’s chief law enforcement official, Attorney General Abbott has dramatically expanded the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit to save taxpayer dollars by rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicaid system.

The unit has established field offices in Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Lubbock, McAllen, San Antonio and Tyler through authorization and funding from the 78th Legislature. It works with federal, state and local agencies across the state to identify and prosecute those who defraud the Medicaid program.