A Lake View man pleaded guilty in Richland County General Sessions court to six indictments arising from his fraudulent activity in the operation of six nursing homes, including Aiken’s Azalea Woods.
Richard C. Cooke, 53, pleaded guilty to two indictments charging him with forgery, a felony, and four indictments charging him with medical assistance provider fraud, a misdemeanor, said state Attorney General Alan Wilson.
The charges stem from fraudulent cost reports Cooke submitted to the S.C. Medicaid program.
Cooke, a resident of Dillon County, was a key figure in Cooke Management Company Inc. of Lake View, which operated six nursing homes. They are located in Aiken, Bishopville, Fork, Florence, Kingstree and Fountain Inn.
Under state Medicaid regulations, nursing homes are required to submit annual operational cost reports for their facility. The Medicaid program pays the nursing home based on that and on the number of Medicaid residents. From 2009 to 2011, the six nursing homes were overpaid a total of $1,020,818.34 as a result of the fraudulent items listed on cost reports submitted to the Medicaid program, according to the Attorney General’s office.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Cooke is required to plead guilty to the charges, make restitution of $1,020,818.38 to the S.C. Medicaid program, to be excluded from the Medicaid program for life and to cooperate with the ongoing investigation by the Attorney General’s office.
Cooke was sentenced by the Honorable L. Casey Manning to 10 years on the two forgery indictments to run concurrently, suspended to five years probation. Probation conditions include house arrest for one year and 500 hours of community service plus full restitution.
On the four Medicaid fraud counts, Cooke was sentenced to three years each to run concurrently, all suspended. He presented two checks totaling $500,000 toward his restitution.
“Fraud committed against the Medicaid program deprives funds needed to pay for medical services, including nursing home care, for elderly citizens who can’t afford it otherwise,” Wilson said in a statement. “As a result of this investigation and prosecution, the overpayments will be repaid, and the defendant will never again own or manage a nursing home facility.”