The owner and CEO of Little Rock-based New Beginnings Behavioral Health Services has pleaded guilty to obstructing governmental operations, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office announced Tuesday (July 14).
Rutledge’s office said Chirie Bazzelle, 46, of Benton, did not report contracts with lobbyist Rusty Cranford and Robin Raveendran, a former Department of Human Services auditor.
The office said those two and other full-time employees of Preferred Family Healthcare, a community-based health care organization, helped make New Beginnings one of the state’s largest single site mental health providers. New Beginnings billed the state Medicaid program more than $5.3 million in 2018, but because of Bazelle’s arrest and the investigation it is no longer a Medicaid provider.
The release said Bazzelle also concealed the employment of at least one person who had been convicted of Medicaid fraud.
“This culture of corruption (is) rampant through our Medicaid system, and it must be stopped,” Rutledge said in a press release. “Bazzelle is another bad actor who should never be allowed to work in our healthcare system, and people like her must be removed from their positions.”
New Beginnings has been in business since 2009, according to its website. Its psychotherapists provide counseling and treatment to children and adults with problems related to trauma, anger management, and other issues.
Raveendran, Preferred Family Healthcare’s director of program integrity and director of operations, has been charged with two counts of Medicaid fraud, one Class A felony and one Class B felony after a two-year investigation by Rutledge’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
Cranford and Raveendran have pleaded guilty in a federal public corruption case involving Preferred Family Healthcare and former Arkansas legislators.