The attorney general’s office has added a misdemeanor Medicaid fraud charge to its actions against Chirie Bazzelle, owner and CEO of New Beginnings Health Services, a Medicaid-financed services provider to children.
Bazzelle, 46, is accused in this case of giving a false statement in June 2018 to a fraud investigator. According to a news release:
Bazzelle stated that she had no prior knowledge of a letter sent by then-Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson on behalf of New Beginnings Behavioral Health Services to the Department of Human Services Division of Behavioral Health requesting she be allowed to operate in Cleveland County. Email documentation proves that Bazzelle reviewed the letter and sent edits to the letter prior to its submission.
Bazzelle was charged earlier with failing to report contracts with lobbyist Rusty Cranford, Robin Raveendran and her former husband Michael Grimes, identified by the attorney general as a convicted felon. Hutchinson, Cranford and Raveendran all face criminal charges related to illegal spending of Medicaid money, including allegations of bribery against Cranford and Hutchinson.
Bazzelle also has been charged with ignoring fraud by other employees and attempting to evade taxes. She’ll be arraigned in circuit court on those original charges Monday. She made a court appearance Wednesday on the new misdemeanor charge in Pulaski District Court. Her attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, said she’d be pleading not guilty in both cases.
The public corruption probe has produced charges in state and federal court. Raveendran was charged in state court for activities as an official of Preferred Family Healthcare, a Missouri-based nonprofit linked to many of the cases. He’s also a former Department of Human Services official. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office, in addition to charging Raveendran and Bazzelle has charged two other Preferred Family affiliate employees in state court.
Bazzelle has sued Hutchinson for malpractice for failing to file a lawsuit she’d engaged him to pursue over injuries in a vehicle accident. That lawsuit also claims Hutchinson had duped her into joining an alliance with Cranford and Raveendran that has landed her in trouble.