December 21 2016
Burlington Woman Jailed for Stealing Over $500,000 by Fraud
A Burlington woman has been sentenced to jail and ordered to pay up to $570,000 in restitution for stealing from public agencies by billing for unlicensed psychological services, Attorney General Maura Healey announced on Tuesday.
According to a release from the AG’s office, Nita Guzman, 52, pleaded guilty last Friday in Middlesex Superior Court to the charges of Medicaid False Claims (2 counts), False Claims to Public Agency (1 Count), Larceny (4 Counts), and Unlicensed Practice of Psychology (2 Counts).
After the plea was entered, Judge Laurence Pierce sentenced Guzman to 18 months in the House of Correction and five years of probation upon completing her sentence, the release states. The judge also ordered her to pay up to $570,000. A restitution hearing has been set for February 7, 2017 to determine the exact restitution amount.
“Guzman and her sister orchestrated a criminal scheme to provide and bill for unlicensed psychological and mental health services for patients, including children, that they were not qualified to offer,” Healey said. “Guzman stole more than half a million dollars from taxpayers and defrauded public agencies who provide important services to those in need.”
Guzman’s twin sister, Nina Tischer, pleaded guilty in February to charges of False Claims to Public Agency (3 Counts), Larceny (3 Counts), Identity Fraud (3 counts), and Unlicensed Practice of Psychology (3 Counts). She was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in the House of Correction, suspended for a probationary period of five years.
Authorities say Guzman and Tischer were indicted in August 2014 by a Statewide Grand Jury. Both sisters lived in Minnesota at the time of the indictments. In September 2014, Guzman was arrested by a Minnesota County Sheriff and Tischer turned herself in, and they were subsequently arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court.
The AG’s investigation revealed that Guzman, through her company New England Psychological Consultants, Inc., billed Medicaid, Medicare, and Lawrence Public Schools more than $550,000 for unlicensed mental health services.
Tischer, through her company PsychSupport, Inc., billed a division of UMass Medical School more than $30,000 for unlicensed psychological examinations, the release states. Neither sister is a licensed psychologist, a legal requirement for practicing psychology in Massachusetts.
Authorities say that through their corporations, both located in Lowell, the sisters provided bilingual psychological services to Medicaid and Medicare members in the greater-Lowell and greater-Lawrence areas, performed mental health disability evaluations for the Department of Transitional Assistance and the state’s Medicaid program (MassHealth), and assessed children for learning disabilities for Lawrence Public Schools.
Authorities began the investigation after a number of medical and psychological professionals reported their names and license numbers were used fraudulently.
Guzman also billed the Lawrence Public School system more than $60,000 of psychological evaluations of students in special education programs. The evaluations were performed by Guzman or Tischer. State regulations require that any such evaluations be performed by a licensed psychologist.