Officials with a Rock Hill youth counseling business might have falsely billed Medicaid for more than $6.2 million and used some of the money to buy mobile homes, cars and other property, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.
Helping Hands Youth and Family Services, owned by Truman Lewis of Charlotte, is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service for possible wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion, according to the affidavit, filed earlier this month.
Attempts to contact Helping Hands and Lewis on Monday and Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Helping Hands is a common name for many nonprofit groups that provide community services. But the firm targeted in this investigation is a for-profit business formed in North Carolina with offices in Rock Hill, Conway, Georgetown and Columbia.
Between January 2009 and October 2010, Helping Hands collected nearly $9 million from Medicaid in monthly payments, the affidavit says.
About $6 million, which investigators believe was falsely obtained, was transferred from a Helping Hands account controlled by Truman Lewis to bank accounts held by Lewis and others associated with Helping Hands.
The IRS suspects some of the money then was used to buy luxury automobiles including a $90,000 Bentley, a $55,000 Mercedes, two BMWs and a Hummer, mobile homes, real estate and certificates of deposit, the affidavit says.
Tax records show the business has never filed a corporate income tax return and owes more than $250,000 in payroll taxes.
Helping Hands provides mentoring services to children, a company brochure says. Its website has been disabled.
After receiving a tip, the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services, which monitors Medicaid in South Carolina, started investigating Helping Hands.
Medicaid required that Helping Hands clients be referred by a state agency. The clients also had to be evaluated for treatment by a physician or a "licensed healing arts practitioner" before treatment could begin, the affidavit says. These officials fill out required documents and forms and authorize the type and duration of treatment.
The investigation found that Helping Hands billed Medicaid for services delivered outside of authorized periods, the affidavit says.
For example, in one case, Helping Hands was authorized to deliver treatment between specific dates, but Medicaid was billed for services delivered before and after those dates, according to the affidavit. In another case, Helping Hands billed for services rendered long before forms required for authorizing treatment dates were submitted, the affidavit says.
Helping Hands also might have billed Medicaid with incorrect authorization codes. For example, the business billed for services delivered to students in the Georgetown County School District, but the authorization codes were connected to an Anderson County school district, the affidavit says.
Also, the affidavit indicates some of Helping Hands' clients might have been improperly referred to the business. A DSS official said case workers are not allowed to refer clients who are not in their case load.
A Georgetown County DSS caseworker told investigators that Helping Hands contacted her in August 2008 asking her to refer clients to Helping Hands for mentoring services. She referred seven of her clients.
Later, when asked to refer someone who wasn't her client, she refused, she told investigators.
Another DSS caseworker told investigators that she referred around 100 clients to Helping Hands. Between 60 and 70 were not her clients, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit was filed in support of the Internal Revenue Service's request for warrants to search Helping Hands' offices and the homes of several people connected to the business. In 2003, Truman Lewis was convicted of a felony drug charge, according to another affidavit filed in January after investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched Lewis' home. Lewis told them he had a weapon and led them to a loaded Ruger 9mm pistol under a mattress, the affidavit says. The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News reported that Lewis was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, and was freed on $100,000 unsecured bond.