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Feds: Psychologist saw dead people, billed Medicare

Updated: November 6, 2012 6:24AM

She saw dead people.

And then she billed Medicare for treating their psychological needs, federal prosecutors said Thursday, announcing fraud charges against an Inverness psychologist.

Sharon A. Rinaldi, 57, collected Medicare payments for nursing home patients who were already dead, for appointments she reported though she was out of state, and for inflated hours, including services totaling more than 24 hours in a single day, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

She faces five counts of health care fraud, federal prosecutors said as the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services announced charges against 91 defendants nationwide in a Medicare Fraud Strike Force operation targeting $429.2 million in bogus claims.

Between December 2008 and August 2012, Rinaldi was supposed to be treating patients in skilled nursing homes in Illinois, according to claims she filed. Instead, she was in Las Vegas or San Diego, the indictment alleges.

She billed for 49 individual face-to-face psychotherapy sessions on Dec. 30, 2010, treatment that added up to more than 24 hours, it continues.

Federal authorities seek to recover more than $100,000 she pocketed, including some $93,000 seized from her home in September. She may also have to forfeit her Ocean Front condo in San Diego.

A woman who answered Rinaldiā€™s telephone hung up. Further messages were not answered immediately.

Court records show that Rinaldi has been sued several times in recent years for foreclosure.

She also defaulted on her Illinois Student Assistance Loans, which caused Rinaldi, a licensed psychologist since 1997 and licensed registered nurse since 1975, to lose the ability in 2002 to renew her license in 2002, according to the state Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. Her licenses now will be investigated, according to a department spokeswoman.

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