The motion was filed shortly after Judge Greg Kays found Dupont and his wife, Laverne, guilty on two fraud charges. The Duponts were acquitted on money laundering charges.
The indictments against the Duponts and the business, Joplin River of Life Ministries, were filed after the Nov. 27, 2006, fire at the Anderson Guest House, which claimed 11 lives.
The following information was included in the judge's verdict:
Specifically, the indictment charges that the Duponts concealed that Mr. Dupont had been convicted of a health care related offense and was excluded from participation in federal health care programs.
The evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Dupont was a principal of Joplin River of Life Ministries, Incorporation (“JROL”) at all relevant times. Mr. Dupont incorporated JROL after his initial conviction for health care fraud. Shortly before Mr. Dupont’s imprisonment, Mr. Dupont directed that Mrs. Dupont be installed in his former position as Executive Director. The evidence revealed that Mr. Dupont continued to function as a de facto Executive Director during his prison term and after his release. During this time, the Duponts actively concealed his role as a de facto principal.
The Court relied heavily on the testimony of Walter Taylor and Susan Greene in making the determination regarding Mr. Dupont’s role at JROL. Mr. Taylor worked for JROL as a manager of several of the Guest Houses. Later, he served as a JROL board member. He testified that Mr. Dupont attended the board meetings and made “suggestions” as to how the company should be run, and that the board never contradicted his wishes. Specifically, he testified that since the other two board members were Mr. Dupont’s sons-in-law, even if he disagreed with Mr. Dupont, he knew that he would be outvoted. Among his many duties, Mr. Taylor was in charge of Medicaid billing for the Guest Houses. He took his billing documents to the Duponts for review, and Mr. Dupont often questioned his billing methods. In addition, Mr. Dupont threatened to fire, fired, and rehired Mr. Taylor on a regular basis, suggesting that Mr. Dupont
exercised authority over personnel. Mr. Dupont’s involvement with billing, personnel issues and
the board of directors all took place after he returned from prison. Mr. Taylor testified that while
Mr. Dupont was technically his wife’s assistant, in reality she was just there “for show” and Mr. Dupont was actually in charge of JROL. The Court found Mr. Taylor’s testimony credible.
Ms. Greene, a former Guest House administrator, testified that she reported primarily to Mr. Dupont after he got out of prison. Mr. Dupont supervised the payroll and made personnel decisions, including rehiring people that she had fired—effectively overruling her personnel decisions. The Court found Ms. Greene’s testimony credible.
In contrast to the testimony of Mr. Taylor and Ms. Greene on Mr. Dupont’s role, the Court gives very little weight to the testimony of Lionel Smiles. Mr. Smiles was a JROL employee who also happened to be in prison with Mr. Dupont on unrelated charges. Mr. Smiles’s testimony tended to support the Defendants’ version of events—that Mrs. Dupont was the Executive Director and that Mr. Dupont was her assistant. The Government impeached Mr. Smiles’s testimony by eliciting that he previously stated that Mr. Dupont was in charge. Mr.Smiles admitted that he made the previous statement but denied a contradiction because he felt
that he had also said that Mr. Dupont assisted his wife. In addition, Mr. Smiles initially denied having spoken with Mr. Dupont for several weeks, but later admitted that he had spoken with him after his interview with the FBI. When asked to explain these inconsistencies, Mr. Smiles denied that Mr. Dupont had influenced his testimony or told him what to say. The Court finds Mr. Smiles’s testimony largely incredible due to these inconsistencies and his general manner while testifying.
The Court finds Mr. Dupont’s testimony largely irrelevant to the question of whether he was acting as a principal or operator. He denied that he engaged in direct patient care—an issue which does not seem to be in dispute. This is likely because the parties’ defense is focused on the language of the exclusion letter. Ex. 1 at ¶ 29. Furthermore, Mr. Dupont lauded his wife’s business acumen as a means of refuting the Government’s position that she was merely a figurehead while he was the operator of JROL. The Court does not find this relevant for the reasons discussed below. The Court also notes that Mr. Dupont’s bankruptcy petition, filed in 2004, lists his occupation as JROL’s “Exec. Director.” Ex. 28 at 16.1
Based on these witnesses, the Court finds that the credible evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Robert Dupont was, at the very least, sharing the operating and principal responsibilities with his wife during and after his prison term. Though the parties focused on the language of Mr. Dupont’s exclusion letter and his subjective understanding of it, the issue before the Court is whether the Defendants’ conduct satisfies the elements of health care fraud. Based on their concealment of Mr. Dupont’s role as principal, the Court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the Duponts executed a scheme or artifice to defraud the Missouri Medicaid program.
On multiple occasions, Mrs. Dupont affirmatively stated that no “operator or principal” was excluded from participation in Medicaid or had been convicted of an offense related to the operation of a long-term care facility. Exs. 21-24. Mrs. Dupont made these statements in October 2005 and February 2006, after Mr. Dupont’s exclusion. Id., Ex. 1 at ¶¶ 26-27. Since the Court has found that Mr. Dupont was a de facto principal or operator, these statements were false.
As to Mr. Dupont’s role in this scheme, the Court finds that he used his influence over the board to have Mrs. Dupont installed as Executive Director. The Court does not accept the Government’s position that Mrs. Dupont was merely a figurehead. However, the statements she made denied that any principal or operator had a health care offense conviction or was an excluded provider. It is not necessary that Mr. Dupont was the only principal or operator in order for these statements to be part of a scheme or artifice to commit health care fraud. Mr. Dupont further participated in this scheme by presenting himself to others, such as his probation officer, Adam Szura, as his wife’s assistant while he was actually acting as, at least, Co-Executive Director. Mr. Szura testified that he spoke to Mrs. Dupont as Executive Director and that his understanding of Mr. Dupont’s employment plan was that he would be “working at” JROL. Mr. Szura also testified that Mr. Dupont was not forthcoming with documentation regarding his employment, such as pay stubs and tax returns. Regarding the second element, this scheme or artifice was clearly in connection with the delivery of health care benefits. The parties have stipulated that the specific statements the Court has referenced were Missouri Medicaid licensure applications, which obviously involve health care benefits.
The Court finds that the Government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt Robert and Laverne Dupont executed a scheme or artifice to defraud the Missouri Medicaid program by concealing Mr. Dupont’s role as a principal in the operation of JROL’s long-term care facilities, and that this scheme was executed in connection with the delivery of health care benefits The Court finds Robert J. Dupont, Jr. GUILTY of health care fraud as charged in Count Two.
The Court finds Laverne D. Dupont GUILTY of health care fraud as charged in Count Two.