14 arrested in insurance fraud scheme - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

14 arrested in insurance fraud scheme

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By Cheryl Lasseter - bio | email | twitter

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - When a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi employee received a check that looked suspicious, that employee turned it over to authorities. The check touched off a probe by the Attorney General and State Auditor's Offices, and netted the arrests this week of 14 people.

Attorney General Jim Hood says three of them were employees of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi, which administers the State Employees Health Insurance Plan.

"They were sending checks to some state employees for medical procedures that were never performed," General Hood says. "The state employees were cashing these checks, some of which were as large as $44,000."

We're told the state employees were then kicking back some of the cash. Among those arrested: 36-year-old Crystal Barnes, who is listed among the science staff at Callaway High School. She faces one count each of conspiracy, false representation, and insurance and mail fraud.

Christine Degrate is listed as a secretary at Jackson State University. She faces four counts on each of the same charges.

Veronica Newell, Tiana Whitsett, and Sonya Mitchell are the Blue Cross Blue Shield employees. They all face various charges related to the fraud scheme.

The others include Isis Young, Zaveon Cooper, Fonda Church, Tambrella Johnson, Contessa Davis, Kwame Smith, Shantwana Johnson, Kathy Carter, and Erica Ball.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi has made a prompt and full refund to the state.

"They had the responsibility to pay the money back to the state. When this is all resolved, we will be able to get the money back to them," General Hood says. "We're gonna go back, make sure there are not any more losses to the fund."

If convicted, each defendant faces up to five years in prison. 

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