Webster Groves agency fined $1.8M for overbilling, false statements on child care

ST. LOUIS – A Webster Groves-based nonprofit that provides services for troubled youth and foster children in Missouri will pay a $1.8 million fine after false claims about the services it provided.

Great Circle agreed to a series of compliance measures Friday. Federal officials say the agency made false statements, overbilling the state for services to young people at its residential treatment facility.

“Great Circle falsely submitted bills for services it did not provide but were needed by the children,” said Special Agent in Charge Jay Greenberg of the FBI St. Louis Division. “Prioritizing profit over safety can put already vulnerable children in peril.”

“In this non-prosecution agreement, Great Circle admits falsely claiming to have provided enhanced supervision to youth at its residential treatment facility in claims for payment to the State of Missouri,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Reiter, who is leading the team that worked on the case. “A cascade of issues can arise from inadequate supervision, particularly for children with such intensive need for treatment and assistance.”

Reiter said Great Circle will not be criminally prosecuted and will continue to operate because it cooperated with the investigation and to avoid jeopardizing access to resident treatment services for its clients.

Great Circle provides behavioral health services to children with special needs in the custody of the Missouri Department of Social Services, Children’s Division. As part of the agreement, Great Circle admitted falsely claiming to have provided enhanced services for six residents between 2019 and 2020.

Great Circle also has agreed to implement a compliance and ethics program and to improve internal controls, compliance, policies and procedures.

“These agreements hold Great Circle accountable by requiring it to admit false billing and pay a civil false claims settlement, without jeopardizing continued access to residential treatment services for children in Missouri’s foster care program,” said Reiter.

The agreement came after a multiyear investigation involving federal, state, Webster Groves and Phelps County officials. KVC Missouri, based in Kansas City, said will take over Great Circle on April 1.

Great Circle sent the following statement to FOX 2 on the latest developments:

“For the last few years Great Circle has worked closely with the government as it conducted an exhaustive review of thousands of billing records associated with our work caring for children on behalf of the State of Missouri. The review covered a five-year period between Jan. 1, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2021. Great Circle made employees and records available to assist the government with its review.

As a result of this comprehensive process, Great Circle has accepted responsibility for improperly requesting payment for a total of $5,431.75 for services provided to six clients and to pay $1,866,000 to avoid the delay, inconvenience and expense of protracted litigation. Great Circle did not plead guilty nor was it found guilty of any crime, and it admitted no liability beyond requesting payment for those six clients. For reference, Great Circle provided more than $351,000,000 in services to over 74,000 clients during that same five-year period from nearly 20 facilities across Missouri and eastern Kansas.

Contrary to the government’s public statements, Great Circle did not admit to defrauding anyone. These agreements do not involve any allegation of abuse or neglect of children.

Great Circle’s top priority is always the health and safety of the children it serves. Great Circle has extensive policies and procedures to guide the treatment of our clients and takes swift actions when it becomes aware of violations, including notification of any critical incidents involving children to the Department of Social Services, Children’s Division.

Great Circle appreciates the thorough and professional manner in which the government worked with us to resolve these issues. Now that this matter has been fully addressed, we look forward to continuing our focus on meeting the needs of the thousands of children and families we serve every day.”

2023-02-25 22:21:27 ,

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