Sumter autism project co-founder given bond on conditions for pretrial

BY ADRIENNE SARVIS
adrienne@theitem.com
Posted 2/1/19

The co-founder of a Sumter-based behavioral therapy provider for children and young adults with autism who is accused of $9 million in insurance fraud has pleaded not guilty to her charges.

Susan Butler, who help start Early Autism Project Inc., …

This item is available in full to subscribers

Sumter autism project co-founder given bond on conditions for pretrial

Posted

The co-founder of a Sumter-based behavioral therapy provider for children and young adults with autism who is accused of $9 million in insurance fraud has pleaded not guilty to her charges.

Susan Butler, who help start Early Autism Project Inc., has been accused of working with others to defraud Medicaid and Tricare of $9,020,589.56 by over-billing the medical insurance providers for therapist services that were partially or not provided at all between January 2007 and June 2016, according to an indictment from a grand jury. After her not-guilty plea, she was given a $25,000 unsecured bond Thursday during an arraignment in Columbia.

If she is convicted, Butler will be required to repay the full amount.

According to an order setting conditions of release for her bond, Butler is required to report to supervision by pretrial services, and she is restricted from leaving the state without prior permission of the court through pretrial services.

Butler is also required to avoid contact, direct and indirect, with anyone who may be a victim or witness to the investigation including former EAP director of clinical services Angela Keith and co-founder Ann Eldridge.

Keith and Eldridge pleaded guilty earlier this month to making false statements to Medicaid for services that were partly or never rendered between January 2009 and June 2016.

In agreeing to plead guilty, Keith and Eldridge are required to testify in front of a grand jury or during any trial when necessary.

EAP was bought by ChanceLight Inc. in 2013. The billing policies under investigation were in place before the change in ownership, said Sarah Vega, EAP senior vice president for operations. Since learning of the investigation, she said, ChanceLight has "reformed every policy and procedure to make sure this will not happen under [the parent company's] ownership."

As part of a settlement that resulted in $8,833,615 in restitution from EAP to the United States, EAP and ChanceLight entered a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, requiring an independent review organization to conduct annual claims reviews.