Owner of burned Mo. group home arrested on fraud charge

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The owner of a Missouri group home where 11 people died in a fire is under arrest on a federal charge of Medicaid fraud.

Federal prosecutors said Robert DuPont, 62, of Joplin, was arrested Monday and is being held without bail until a court hearing Wednesday.

Prosecutors accuse DuPont of operating residential care facilities despite a felony conviction that barred him from running homes that receive Medicaid money.

DuPont and his wife, LaVerne, of Joplin, owned five residential care facilities in southwest Missouri, including the Anderson Guest House for the mentally ill and handicapped. The home burned down in November in a fire that state investigators blamed on attic wiring.

LaVerne DuPont, reached at home, said she could not comment on the arrest or the fraud charge because she has not seen the complaint and has not hired a lawyer.

The homes were run by Joplin River of Life Ministries Inc., where LaVerne DuPont was executive director.

Robert Dupont was barred from running long-term care facilities and participating in the Medicaid program because of a 2003 federal sentence in a Medicare and Medicaid fraud scheme.

DuPont has said he worked at the homes and gave advice but was not in charge.

The federal complaint alleges that DuPont exercised "operation and control" of Joplin River of Life Ministries.

Federal prosecutor John Wood alleged in a statement that Dupont "participated in the day-to-day operation of these facilities, and failed to make the required disclosures regarding his involvement and control of these residential facilities upon his release from prison."

The DuPonts have been embroiled in legal difficulties since the fire.

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon filed a state lawsuit alleging that Robert DuPont lied to state regulators to conceal that he ran the homes.

The state lawsuit seeks to recoup $689,491 in Medicaid payments made to Joplin River of Life Ministries, plus about $2.1 million in damages and an unspecified civil penalty for each fraudulent Medicaid billing made by the company.

Nixon said in a statement Monday that his investigators were assisting the U.S. attorney in the case.

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