Two years ago, I posted about Beverly Cooper who was convicted of multiple counts of fraud and was facing up to a ten-year sentence in Federal Prison. See Press Release. She admitted to signing visit notes when unlicensed personnel made the visits giving the impression that she made the visits; among other things – lots of other things. Signing off on a visit that was made by someone without a license could have easily proved deadly to a patient. Maybe Ms. Cooper is lucky that she didn’t kill someone.
Today, I received a message from someone, apparently a friend of Ms. Cooper’s pointing out that nowhere in the indictment (or my blog post) was Ms. Cooper’s 15-hour work days or dying relative noted. The writer asked if I knew how wonderful Beverly Cooper was and pointed out that everybody makes mistakes.
Frankly, it would not surprise me if Ms. Cooper was a good hearted, likable woman. Unlike less sophisticated crime, fraud on this scale is usually committed by people who are genuinely likable.
The writer of the message mentioned other people involved in the indictment. She wanted to know why I didn’t mention them as well. Frankly, they were not included in the press release. Furthermore, Ms. Cooper was a Registered Nurse. This blog is all about nursing and nurses and those who occupy our worlds. That’s why Ms. Cooper made the blog post list.
I don’t know the person who wrote me the email and I never have met Ms. Cooper before. I was nowhere near Detroit where all of this took place. I cannot begin to speculate on what might have happened. But, I can make reasonable assumptions based upon the criminal cases I have worked with and some former clients.
- Cooper was likely tired and emotionally fragile based upon what the writer said. Masterminds of fraud are incredibly smooth at exploiting the weaknesses of others. She likely was not the mastermind.
- My bet is that Ms. Cooper was paid far more than an RN in a similar position. Should someone offer you twice as much as you are making now, be aware. You are not worth that much.
- Cooper may have convinced herself or have been convinced that ‘everyone does it’. Wrongo.
- There may be somebody in the mix who could be legitimately diagnosed as a sociopath. Being without a conscience is mission critical to projecting the confidence required to persuade accomplices to achieve your purposes.
- I would bet the farm that at some point long before her arrest, Cooper figured out that she was committing fraud and had to make a decision. It could have been loyalty to her employer, a need for money, fear of extortion or just greed that convinced her to stay. Sometimes, folks are too overwhelmed to think about a major life change.
- If this case was even remotely similar to other cases, the agency was investigated for years prior to an arrest. Beverly Cooper and her co-conspirators may have become complacent since there was so much time between the investigation and the arrest.
Let me reiterate that I do not know anything about these people. They are not the usual fraudsters in Louisiana where we have enough home grown fraud that I don’t have to go looking in places like Detroit. I have met many others who have faced a similar circumstance; enough to make assumptions. I have enjoyed their company and worked hard for them and their lawyers and I took their money for my services. But, when a clear pattern of fraud exists, there is nothing that I can do. Criminal attorneys are brought to their knees trying to find a defense for their clients when there is none. These are not thuggish criminals. They are well dressed, well spoken professionals who say and do all the right things.
Your task if you are reading this is to know what a compliant agency looks like so you can find one to work with or create one to attract the kind of talent that you need to bring your agency to the next level.
The compliant agency:
- Makes a lot of mistakes – it may seem like even more because they talk about mistakes, bring them out in the open and find ways to avoid repeat mistakes.
- Has a lot of information scattered around the office about a code of conduct, employee hotlines and compliance committees.
- Welcomes questions as a door for teaching.
- Makes sure that employees have an anonymous way to report fraud.
- Takes reports of fraud offered in good faith seriously.
- Provides far more education in fraud than anyone wants.
- Looks at processes and doesn’t blame employees for mistakes that involve multiple people and departments. There’s plenty of time to blame others if it happens again. Fix it and move on.
Mistakes are costly to be sure but not nearly so much as hiding mistakes. If you inadvertently make a mistake that affects billing and are fired after reporting it, smile on your way out of the door. You don’t want to be there. The agency has just sent a message to everyone else that they have a zero tolerance policy for mistakes and future mistakes will be hidden away.
Ms. Cooper may have been caught up in a storm she could not escape. She may have discounted her actions as inconsequential or have been convinced she would never be caught. She has lost her family, her marriage and her job according to the person who emailed me today. She is completely without dignity. On top of all of that, she is facing jail time.
I can’t help but feel compassion for her but more importantly, I am bound and determined to give all of you who take the time out of your day to read my blog the information you need to avoid a similar fate. Unemployment is not half as bad as jail.