BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH) – A former Stratford woman has been convicted in a Bridgeport healthcare fraud offense on Tuesday, the Department of Justice said.
Nicole Steiner, formerly known as Nicole Balkas, who now resides in Edison, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to a healthcare fraud offense at Bridgeport Federal Court that she committed while awaiting sentencing in another healthcare fraud case.
According to court documents and statements, Steiner pleaded guilty to one count of healthcare fraud related to her operation of Helping Hands Academy in Bridgeport. The organization provided applied behavior analysis services to children diagnosed with autism and was enrolled as a participating provider in the Connecticut Medicaid Program.
From December 2018 to October 2020, Steiner submitted fraudulent claims to Medicaid for applied behavior analysis services that were purportedly provided to Medicaid clients.
According to court records, Steiner submitted claims for dates of service when no applied behavior analysis services of any kind had been provided to the Medicaid clients identified the claims. Steiner inflated the number of hours for certain claims even when applied behavior analysis had been provided to the Medicaid clients identified in the claims.
Steiner also submitted false Medicaid claims in 2020 using a former employee’s name and performing provider number.
The Department of Social Services (DSS) terminated Helping Hands Academy as a provider. According to court documents, Steiner made several false statements and submitted an altered document to DSS in an effort to rescind the termination and to receive payment for previously submitted claims.
Medicaid suffered a loss of $551,311.85 as a result of Steiner’s admitted conduct.
After her guilty plea, Steiner was released on a $50,000 bond. While awaiting sentencing in her case, Steiner was a silent partner in another company that provided applied behavior analysis services, to children diagnosed with ASD called New Beginnings Children’s Behavioral Health LLC.
Steiner was responsible for billing claims to Medicaid, managing payroll and recruiting and screening potential employees. Steiner also had access to and used her business partner’s email and other online accounts to operate the company, according to court documents.
Steiner and the company engaged in healthcare fraud by billing Medicaid for thousands of dollars in services not rendered and in particular billing for services not rendered by Steiner.
Steiner was arrested on May 2. She is scheduled to appear before a district judge on October 21.
Steiner faces a maximum imprisonment of 20 years for the new case, part of which must be imposed consecutively to the sentence she receives in her initial healthcare fraud case.
Steiner was released on a $250,000 bond in home detention and under electronic monitoring.
The investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Services Office of the Inspector General and the FBI.