The Augusta Chronicle

The first defendant in what investigators say was a Medicaid/Medicare fraud scheme that targeted poor and elderly residents of the community pleaded guilty Wednesday.

Timothy A. Smith, 39, of Youngstown, Ohio, pleaded in Richmond County Superior Court to Medicaid fraud and conspiracy to defraud the state. Chief Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Smith to 10 years probation under the First Offender Act. Brown also imposed a $5,000 fine.

Smith was caught with several others in Richmond and Burke counties in July. The Crimes Against the Vulnerable and Elderly task force zeroed in on the suspects who were going door-to-door offering people free DNA screening for cancer and other diseases, Assistant District Attorney Amanda Pennington said. They dressed in scrubs and wore “genetic testing technician” badges. They took mouth swabs and obtained victims’ personal identity information and their Medicaid or Medicare numbers.

Such testing is only supposed to be done in a doctor’s office based on a physician’s belief it is medically necessary, Pennington said. The scam was to bill the government insurance programs and in some incidents private insurance companies. So far investigators haven’t found any victim who received test results, but some have been billed for tens of thousands of dollars, Pennington said.

Smith told investigators he learned of the job through Craigslist and initially thought it was legitimate. He worked from April to July. He was told he would be paid $200 per swab, but the money didn’t materialize and Smith was told he owed the company money, said defense attorney Zack Goolsby. He didn’t realize what he was getting into but later turned a blind eye, Goolsby said.