The United States District Courthouse sits on Mulberry Street on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Macon, Georgia. (Photo/Katie Tucker

The United States District Courthouse sits on Mulberry Street on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Macon, Georgia.

Credit: Katie Tucker/The Telegraph

The owner of a Macon area rehabilitation center admitted on Wednesday to ordering two employees to alter documents during a 2019 federal investigation into fraudulent billing, according to the Department of Justice.

Brenda Hicks, the owner of Middle Georgia Family Rehab, ordered the tampering after investigators demanded patient records so they could look into allegations that the the center filed false claims with health insurance companies about services patients received.

Hicks then told the two employees that the order was an audit, and that if the requested records were missing or not signed they were to create and sign them.

One of the employees quit after suspecting what they were doing was illegal, while the other employee stayed and continued to add notes and signatures to patient documents, according to the DOJ. Middle Georgia Family Rehab turned the documents into the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in December 2019.

Hicks admitted to altering the documents and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice as part of an agreement. She faces a maximum of 20 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. The plea agreement will also require Hicks to pay restitution to the affected entities, which include Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 5. 

“Anyone who attempts to alter or destroy documents requested as part of a federal investigation will face federal penalties for breaking the law,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “For the sake of justice and truth, it is imperative that the integrity of the investigation is maintained for the benefit of all parties.”

U.S. District Judge Tilman E. Self ordered Middle Georgia Family Rehab to pay more than $9.6 million to the companies in damages and penalties over the fraudulent billing in June 2022.

At the time of the ruling, Leary said the center took hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars through the billing scheme.

“The ‘reckless disregard’ displayed by Middle Georgia Family Rehab in its billing should serve as a warning to other health facilities across Georgia—and the nation—that filing improper and false claims will come with hefty consequences,” Leary said.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with The Telegraph.