Jackson, MS-The last of 14 defendants has been sentenced to prison time for her role in a $500,000 insurance fraud scheme involving the State and School Employees Health Insurance Plan, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.
Sonya Mitchell, age 35, of Jackson, formerly employed at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, was sentenced by Judge John Emfinger yesterday in Rankin County Circuit Court after having pleaded guilty to four counts of conspiracy, four counts of insurance fraud, four counts of mail fraud; and four counts of making false representations to defraud the government.
Judge Emfinger sentenced Mitchell to serve 18 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections; ordered her to pay restitution to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi in the amount of $206,855.10 to be paid jointly with her co-defendants; ordered her to reimburse the State of Mississippi’s General Fund in the amount of $4,650.00 for the cost of the investigation and court costs in the amount of $7,692.00. Upon her release from prison, Mitchell will serve five years of supervised probation.
“We are happy to bring this case to a just conclusion, and we thank Judge Emfinger for strong sentences which will hopefully make others think twice about doing the same thing,” said Attorney General Hood.
Mitchell is the last of 14 defendants to plead guilty and be sentenced in the scheme where Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, which administers the State and School Employees Health Insurance Plan, had three employees who processed claims of up to $44,000 to at least 10 state employees for reimbursement for medical procedures that never occurred. These state employees cashed the checks and kicked back some of the money to the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi employees and one third party. The total stolen from the State and School Employees Health Insurance Plan is over $500,000, but Blue Cross has reimbursed the loss.
Here is a list of all the defendants and the sentences they received in this case:
Sonya Mitchell (BCBS) 18 years to serve
Veronica Newell (BCBS) 15 years to serve
Tiana Whitsett (BCBS) 15 years to serve
Zaveon Cooper (non-state/third party) 13 years to serve
Christine Degrate (JSU ) 10 years to serve
Isis Young (MDOC) 10 years to serve
Kwame Smith (JPS) 10 years to serve
Erica Ball (MS DHS) 08 years to serve
Fonda Church (MS Board of Health) 08 years to serve
Shantwana Johnson (MS Dept. of Emp. Sec.) 08 years to serve
Tambrela Johnson (MS State Hospital) 05 years to serve
Contessa Davis (MDOC) 05 years to serve
Crystal Barnes (JPS) 05 years to serve
Kathy Carter (MS Div. Medicaid) 03 years to serve
The scheme unraveled when a participant returned her check to Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, which then turned it over to authorities. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi has cooperated with the Attorney General’s investigation and made a prompt and full refund to the State.
The cases were investigated by Christopher Watkins and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Larry Baker of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division.