Mental health agency operator who defrauded Medicaid systems in SC, NC sentenced

Zak Koeske
·2 min read

The franchise owner of a Columbia-based behavioral health agency who defrauded both South Carolina and North Carolina’s Medicaid systems has been sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison, U.S. Attorney Peter McCoy announced Friday.

Markuetric “Mark” Stringfellow, 37, who in August pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit Medicaid fraud in both South Carolina and North Carolina, was sentenced Thursday to 78 months in prison and three years of supervised release, McCoy said in a statement.

Stringfellow, a Powder Springs, Georgia resident, also must pay nearly $5.3 million in restitution, including more than $700,000 to the South Carolina Medicaid program, McCoy said.

Starting in 2014, Stringfellow, a Wrights Care franchise owner, began filing fraudulent Medicaid claims for behavioral mentoring services that were either not provided, partially provided or did not qualify for reimbursement, prosecutors said.

After learning Wrights Care was being audited in March 2015, Stringfellow and his co-conspirators met in Columbia for a “note party” at which they falsified records subject to the audit and submitted them to South Carolina’s Medicaid auditors in an effort to deceive them, according to prosecutors.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said Stringfellow also defrauded the North Carolina Medicaid system in his role as partner at Everlasting Vitality and Do-It-4-The Hood Corporation, two North Carolina companies that operated after-school programs throughout the state.

Between January 2016 and November 2018, Stringfellow and others paid people to recruit at-risk youths, particularly Medicaid-eligible ones, to participate in the after-school programs.

As part of the programs, the children were required to submit to drug tests.

According to prosecutors, Stringfellow and his co-conspirators solicited kickbacks from various drug testing laboratories in exchange for referrals of Medicaid beneficiaries obtained through the after-school programs.

They also referred clients to laboratories they knew would submit phony claims for reimbursement based on drug testing services that were not medically necessary, prosecutors said.

After North Carolina Medicaid reimbursed the laboratories for the fraudulent drug tests, the labs paid a percentage of that amount to the companies Stringfellow controlled, according to court documents.

Stringfellow was charged last July in bills of information filed in both South Carolina and North Carolina federal courts, and agreed to plead guilty to health care fraud in both cases.

His South Carolina case was subsequently transferred to North Carolina for further proceedings, and he ultimately pleaded guilty Aug. 21 in connection with both federal prosecutions.

FBI field offices in Columbia, Charlotte and Atlanta, as well as the Medicaid Investigation Divisions in Columbia, Raleigh and Atlanta participated in the investigation that took down Stringfellow’s Medicaid scheme.

Assistant U.S. attorneys Brook Andrews in Columbia and Michael Savage in Charlotte prosecuted the case.