LOWELL — Two local women are facing a litany of federal charges after they allegedly scammed MassHealth and Medicare out of more than $100 million by committing health care fraud and paying kickbacks to induce referrals, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.
Faith Newton, 52, of Westford, and Winnie Waruru, 41, of Lowell, were arrested Sunday and made an initial appearance via video in Boston federal court on Monday, officials said.
Newton, part owner and operator of Arbor Homecare Services, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, one count of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, one count of money laundering conspiracy and seven counts of money laundering.
Waruru, a home health nurse at Arbor, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, one count of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, two counts of making false statements and one count of making a false statement in a health care matter.
From 2013 to 2017, Newton and Waruru allegedly used Arbor to bill MassHealth and Medicare for home health services that were either never provided, not medically necessary or not authorized by a physician, according to the federal indictment. Newton and a family member allegedly paid themselves approximately $40 million from the profits, while Newton allegedly paid Waruru over $450,000.
Additionally, prosecutors said Newton used Arbor to develop professional relationships as a way to pay kickbacks for patient referrals and allegedly laundered the ill-obtained money to later buy five homes in Westford, North Andover, Chelmsford and Dracut.
Federal officials filed a separate civil lawsuit seeking forfeiture of the properties, as well as financial accounts and investments involved in Newton’s alleged money-laundering scheme.
In that civil complaint, prosecutors accuse Newton of targeting vulnerable patients who were poor, on disability and/or suffering from depression and/or addiction.
Newton’s attorney, Raymond Sayeg Jr. of Krattenmaker O’Connor & Ingber P.C., gave few remarks to The Sun regarding the case, saying only that the government’s allegations are misplaced.
“I will tell you that we’re going to zealously defend her action,” Sayeg said. “She is completely denying the allegations, and we look forward to her time in court to try these matters.”
Waruru’s attorney, Stellio Sinnis of the Federal Public Defender Office, declined to comment.
The charges of health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, money laundering conspiracy and money laundering each provide for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The conspiracy to pay kickbacks, make false statements and make false statements in health care matters each provide for a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Following their initial appearance Monday, Waruru was released after posting a $50,000 unsecured bond, according to online court records. Prosecutors moved to have Newton held pending trial, so a detention hearing and arraignment were scheduled for Newton on Feb. 4, according to court records.
Staff Writer Robert Mills contributed to this report.