OLYMPIA - Attorney General Rob McKenna has named assistant attorney general Tony Rugel head of the new Eastern Washington division of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in Spokane. The announcement is part of a larger effort to expand the unit’s presence in Eastern Washington.
“The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) recovered more than $9 million for Washington state last year through the investigation and prosecution of fraudulent providers– and 30 to 40 percent of our cases are filed in Eastern Washington,” McKenna said. “We plan to build on that success by increasing the number of investigators and making those investigators easily accessible to people on both sides of the mountains.
“Tony has demonstrated leadership within the unit as well as a personal connection to Spokane,” McKenna said. “He is uniquely qualified to take this new unit to the next level in fighting Medicaid fraud and patient abuse in Eastern Washington.”
Over the last year, the MFCU successfully prosecuted 24 cases, two of which were resident abuse cases and 22 were Medicaid fraud cases.
The unit filed charges against a Spokane woman in December for defrauding the state Medicaid program. Sandra Christiansen, owner and president of First Choice Health Services, Inc., was charged with 17 counts of theft in the first degree for billing and receiving roughly $83,000 in payments for skilled nurse care, when no care or a lesser level of nurse care was provided. The case is set for trial on May 22.
In addition to state prosecutions and settlements, MFCU personnel led a number of national investigations and prosecutions resulting in the return of hundreds of millions of dollars to state and the District of Columbia’s Medicaid programs.
The MFCU has personnel in Tacoma, Olympia and Spokane, but the Attorney General’s Office is increasing its presence in Eastern Washington to improve access and enhance the unit’s ability to investigate charges of provider fraud and resident abuse.
The Attorney General secured an additional $150,000 in state funds and $450,000 in federal funds to acquire office space and add another prosecutor, support staff and as many as three more investigators to the Spokane office in July 2006. Fraud and resident abuse cases from across Eastern Washington will be investigated from this office.
Rugel joined the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in 2004. He previously worked as counsel for the Washington State Senate, in private practice in Eastern Washington and as deputy prosecuting attorney for the Okanogan County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. He has worked in a number of other jobs, including starting and operating a successful forest fire fighting company.
He graduated from Eastern Washington University in 1990 with a degree in government, then graduated from the Seattle University School of Law in 1993.
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Janelle Guthrie, AG Media Relations Director, (360) 586-0725