Richmond woman faces prison time after faking sickness

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

RICHMOND, Va. — A Richmond woman pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal healthcare fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.

Chermeca Harris, 36, a Medicaid beneficiary, misrepresented her health condition to health care providers in order to obtain health care benefits, according to court documents.

Those documents stated Harris falsely represented she was suffering from sickle cell anemia.

Prosecutors said she lied about having the disease to obtain pain killing drugs, such as dilaudid, which she wanted to receive intravenously through the neck.

Court documents showed doctors tested Harris and determined that she did not have sickle cell anemia.

Hospitals involved in the testing included VCU Medical Center, Chippenham, Bon Secours St. Mary’s, Memorial Regional, John Randolph Medical Center, and Henrico Doctor’s.

Harris also falsely represented her identity, according to federal court documents.

She used the name M.M. and R.J., both of whom received Medicaid, investigators said.

“Harris was charged as part of the largest ever health care fraud enforcement action by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, involving 412 charged defendants across 41 federal districts, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving approximately $1.3 billion in false billings,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “Of those charged, over 120 defendants, including doctors, were charged for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics. Thirty state Medicaid Fraud Control Units also participated in today’s arrests. In addition, HHS has initiated suspension actions against 295 providers, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists.”

The schemes involved approximately $1.3 billion in false billings.

Harris pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud on the Medicaid program and aggravated identity theft.

She faces a mandatory minimum of two years in prison and a maximum penalty of 12 years in prison.

Harris will be sentenced by a federal district court judge on October 26, 2017.