ST. LOUIS – A federal judge has sentenced a St. Louis couple that was paid nearly $80,000 to care for elderly Medicard recipients but failed to fulfill their responsibilities.
Qais Meraj, 33, was sentenced to two months in prison, two years of supervised release and a $5,000 fine. Aziza Meraj, 41, was sentenced to three years of probation, including two months of house arrest, a $5,000 fine and 200 hours of community service.
The judge also ordered Qais and Aziza to pay back a combined $79,112 for services that the couple did not provide.
Qais and Aziza Meraj each pleaded guilty on June 8 to one count of making false statements to the Medicaid program. They admitted defrauding the Missouri Medicaid program MO HealthNet by falsely claiming they provided personal care services for multiple Medicaid clients from February 2019 to March 2021. As a result, Medicaid was billed for services that were never provided.
The couple worked for different companies during that time as personal care attendants. They were supposed to help clients with meal preparation, grooming, cleaning and managing their medications as a way of keeping those clients out of a nursing home or hospital.
According to a memo, the Merajs forged clients’ initials and submitted time sheets that falsely represented that they provided personal care services to one couple when they were out of the country. When that behavior was reported to the Missouri Medicaid Audit and Compliance Office, Aziza reportedly retaliated by impersonating the couple’s daughter and attempting to cancel their Medicaid eligibility by falsely claiming that they were leaving the country.
“The Merajs were more motivated by personal greed than their duty to provide appropriate and necessary care to vulnerable patients,” said Curt L. Muller, Special Agent in Charge with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “Alongside our law enforcement partners, HHS-OIG is committed to protecting the integrity of the Medicaid program and to ensuring the appropriate use of U.S. taxpayer dollars.”
The HHS-OIG and the Missouri Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigated this case.