St. Petersburg man charged with Medicaid fraud

Willie Thomas Barnes

ST. PETERSBURG — Attorney General Ashley Moody sent out a press release May 27 announcing that her Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and St. Petersburg police had arrested a Pinellas County man “for willfully and intentionally engaging in Medicaid fraud.”

Willie Thomas Barnes, 64, of St. Petersburg was booked into the Pinellas County jail on one count of Medicaid provider fraud, a second-degree felony, and one count of scheme to defraud, a third-degree felony. Bail was set at $25,000.

According to Moody’s press release, Barnes allegedly received more than $15,000 in Medicaid payments for therapy never provided to clients. Barnes is the owner and operator of Barnes Holistic Counseling Therapies Institute in St. Petersburg.

The investigation was conducted by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General.

Investigators say Barnes allegedly billed the Florida Medicaid program for therapy services to Medicaid recipients by a former employee. They say Barnes allegedly generated service claims for 392 patients from June 1, 2016 to around Oct. 31, 2018, using the former employee’s information.

According to investigators, Barnes also allegedly offered kickbacks for patient referrals and patient retention, which is prohibited by Medicaid provider fraud statutes.

If convicted, Barnes faces up to 20 years in prison and more than $30,000 in fines and restitution. Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute the case.

“Defrauding the Medicaid program for personal gain leaves both patients and the program vulnerable,” Moody said. “Patients should be able to trust the medical professionals they receive treatment from without fear of being used to scam the Medicaid program and rip off taxpayers.”