Soldotna woman accused of abuse, Medicaid fraud

A Soldotna woman has been accused of fraud and abuse of a vulnerable adult for allegedly taking Medicaid funds while allowing her charge to live in an unheated, unkempt home.

Mercedes A. Baldwin, 25, allegedly falsely reported the hours she was working as a personal care attendant for a vulnerable adult in her home, failed to provide adequate care to that adult and did not report potentially harmful treatment of the adult to authorities, according to charges filed July 16 by the Office of Special Prosecutions in Anchorage. In February 2017, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit received a report of potential neglect or abuse of a vulnerable adult after the state removed several children from Baldwin’s home over concerns about the safety and condition of the home, according to court documents.

Adult Protective Services investigators found the home “uninhabitable” and “exceptionally dirty,” with garbage and rotting materials piled up, no running water due to bad pipes, no heat and carpets saturated with dog and cat feces and urine, the documents state.

The APS investigators also reported that the person had been keeping warm using the oven and an electric blanket because of the lack of heat.

Baldwin had been certified to receive Medicaid funds through a personal care attendant agency from at least January 2014 to January 2017, according to the court. Medicaid typically pays about $24 an hour for personal care, with at least half that required to go to the person performing the assistance, the documents state.

Baldwin allegedly reported providing the maximum number of hours of care allowed throughout much of 2016 and into 2017, which in some cases was as much as 45 hours per week.

Prosecutors note that time sheets were nearly identical from one week to the next, with a similar pattern of activities claimed on each.

Approved care included a variety of tasks, including bathing, dressing, grooming, housekeeping, meal preparation and laundry.

In September 2017, Medicaid fraud investigators interviewed Baldwin and reported “a strong odor” of methamphetamine in her home. Baldwin, who alleged that she recorded the maximum number of hours at the behest of the personal care attendant agency, reportedly acknowledged that she was unable to carry out some of the activities she listed on her time sheet, such as bathing, due to the lack of water in the house.

When interviewed in June of this year, Baldwin said she didn’t alert anyone at the personal care attendant agency about the condition of her home, reportedly telling investigators that if they knew she would be in jail and the adult would have been put in an assisted living facility.

Baldwin was charged with one count of medical assistance fraud, a class A misdemeanor; second-degree endangering the welfare of a vulnerable adult, a class A misdemeanor; and failing to report harm, a class B misdemeanor. She is scheduled for arraignment Aug. 21.

Reach Erin Thompson at ethompson@peninsulaclarion.com.

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