RELEASE – Sumter Women Sentenced to Federal Prison in Healthcare Fraud Scheme

Columbia, South Carolina – United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Angela Breitweiser Keith, age 53, and Ann Davis Eldridge, age 58, both of Sumter, were sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of making false statements to defraud Medicaid. United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett of Columbia sentenced Keith to 12 months in federal prison and Eldridge to 6 months.

Facts presented during the hearing showed that Keith and Eldridge were executives of the South Carolina Early Autism Project (SCEAP). SCEAP provided behavioral health and education solutions for children and young adults, particularly those diagnosed with autism. SCEAP began providing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for children with autism in 2003, becoming the number one biller in the country for ABA services by 2015. SCEAP overcharged Medicaid and Tricare (military-affiliated insurance) millions of dollars by inflating billing records and charging the government for services it did not provide to clients. SCEAP employees reported to the government that they were pressured to exaggerate the amount of time they spent delivering services to the clients. Company emails indicated that SCEAP encouraged employees to unlawfully bill for time while waiting in driveways, traveling to and from servicing the clients, and even while sitting in restaurants. The employees also indicated that they had required billing goals they had to meet to qualify for job benefits and/or bonuses. These bonuses included gift cards and company-expensed vacations.

Ann Eldridge was a co-founder of SCEAP and Angela Breitweiser Keith worked at the SCEAP since its inception. In December 2012, Eldridge and her partner sold SCEAP to a company called Chancelight for over $18 million. Eldridge and Keith remained with the company, continuing in leadership roles in South Carolina. Chancelight engaged Eldridge to promote the SCEAP system to other Chancelight franchises in the Southeast and promoted Keith to Senior Vice President of Data Reporting and Analysis. In 2018, SCEAP/Chancelight repaid the government nearly $9 million for overbilling Medicaid and Tricare in a civil settlement.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office will aggressively protect the integrity of our health care system,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon.  “Those found cheating the system face the prospect of both civil fines and federal prison time.”

“Fraudulently diverting funds from vital government healthcare programs comes at a cost—as this sentence illustrates,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “Every dollar overcharged decreases funds available to provide desperately needed healthcare services to this vulnerable population. We will continue working with state and federal law enforcement partners to bring such criminals to justice.”

“These sentencings are the product of a thorough investigation and demonstrate the commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and our law enforcement partners to hold dishonest medical service providers accountable when they submit false bills and divert taxpayer funds,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Craig, Jr., DCIS Mid-Atlantic Field Office.  “DCIS will continue to protect the integrity of the Department of Defense by rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse that negatively impacts critical programs such as TRICARE.”

The investigation was conducted by members of the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, the Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney T. DeWayne Pearson of the Columbia office.