Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jurors deliberating in former WellCare execs' fraud trial

WellCare’s former chief executive officer Todd S. Farha and others face charges of conspiracy to commit Medicaid fraud and making false statements.

Times (2007)

WellCare’s former chief executive officer Todd S. Farha and others face charges of conspiracy to commit Medicaid fraud and making false statements.

TAMPA — The fate of four former WellCare executives accused of defrauding the state Medicaid program of nearly $30 million now rests in the hands of a federal jury.

After a nearly 2 1/2-month trial, attorneys on Tuesday finished their closing statements in the high-profile criminal case against former chief executive officer Todd S. Farha; former chief financial officer Paul L. Behrens; former vice president William Kale; and former vice president Peter E. Clay.

Jurors are scheduled to begin deliberations today.

The defendants face charges of conspiracy to commit Medicaid fraud and making false statements. Clay also faces two counts of making false statements to federal agents.

If convicted, each man faces up to 10 years on the health care fraud count and up to five years on other counts.

Federal prosecutors say the men led a scheme to keep public dollars that should have gone back to the state. According to the March 2011 indictment, WellCare took Medicaid money from Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration with the understanding that if it did not use 80 percent of the funds set aside for behavioral health services, the difference was to be returned to the state.

But, prosecutors say, WellCare executives conspired to inflate what they actually spent to reduce the amount they had to return. That strategy involved the creation of a new company, which WellCare's two Florida HMOs paid for behavioral services, to inflate costs, court documents say.

Defense attorneys say the expenses were legitimate and that the state Agency for Health Care Administration knew all along about the arrangement but failed to give WellCare and other HMOs any guidance. They say federal prosecutors worked themselves into a corner with a highly publicized raid of WellCare headquarters in 2007 and turned a contractual dispute into a federal crime.

The prosecutors' case against the executives included hours of internal meetings secretly taped by whistle-blower Sean Hellein as well as testimony from Gregory West, a senior financial planner who testified he sent false information to the state at the behest of his bosses.

West pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit Medicaid fraud in 2007 and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in an effort to get a lighter punishment. He has not yet been sentenced.

Defense attorneys undercut West's testimony, saying he testified about matters he did not understand in an attempt to save himself from prison time. Attorney Peter George said Monday that WellCare executives reported information to the state based on their interpretation of the law governing Medicaid behavioral services.

He told jurors that snippets of recordings or emails showing that executives, including his client Farha, were concerned about how much money they had to refund the state were not unusual.

"Saving money was part of Mr. Farha's job," he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Trezevant said Tuesday that defense lawyers had done little other than present "red herrings" to distract jurors from the real issue.

"They were making up numbers and sending bogus information to AHCA," he said.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at or (813) 226-3374.

Jurors deliberating in former WellCare execs' fraud trial 05/14/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 10:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. McConnell trying to revise the Senate health care bill by Friday


    WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is aiming to send a revised version of his health care bill to the Congressional Budget Office as soon as Friday as he continues to push for a vote before Congress' August recess.

    Protesters rally against the Senate Republican health care bill Wednesday on the east front of the Capitol building.
  2. Police raise likely death toll in London high-rise blaze


    LONDON — The number of people killed or presumed dead in the London high-rise fire has inched up to 80, but the final death toll may not be known for months, British police said at a grim briefing Wednesday.

  3. Rick Baker gives himself a "B" in 1st debate against Rick Kriseman


    Rick Baker gave himself a “B” in his first debate against Mayor Rick Kriseman.

    Rick Baker chats with supporters at a fundraiser at St. Petersburg Yacht Club Wednesday evening
  4. Companies, governments assess damage from latest malware attack


    PARIS — Companies and governments around the world on Wednesday counted the cost of a software epidemic that has disrupted ports, hospitals and banks. Ukraine, which was hardest hit and where the attack likely originated, said it had secured critical state assets — though everyday life remained affected, …

  5. Details of Trump's travel ban still being finalized


    WASHINGTON — Senior officials from the departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security labored Wednesday to finalize rules for visitors from six mostly Muslim nations who hope to avoid the Trump administration's revived travel ban and come to the United States.