Crime and Justice

State probing Maple Leaf drug treatment company for fraud

John Treadwell

Assistant Attorney General John Treadwell. Pool file photo by Stefan Hard/The Times Argus

BURLINGTON — The attorney general’s Medicaid fraud unit is pursuing an investigation into a drug treatment company that closed abruptly earlier this year, according to state officials and court documents.

Maple Leaf Treatment Associates Inc. permanently shuttered its operations in February without warning state officials, leaving a vacuum in the state’s treatment system during an unprecedented wave of opiate addiction and overdose deaths.

Maple Leaf Treatment Associates operated Maple Leaf Treatment Center in Underhill, a 41-bed inpatient facility that was the state’s largest and longest-operating inpatient facility.

At the time of the facility’s closing in February, VTDigger reported that several former staffers were interviewed by investigators with the Medicaid fraud unit and the Office of Professional Regulation.

The ex-staffers said employees had filed complaints with the OPR about alleged harassment by the company’s former clinical director Dr. Sprague Simonds. Simonds has an active license to practice psychology, which is regulated by the OPR.

One former employee who was interviewed by a detective with the Medicaid fraud unit said the detective’s questions focused on Maple Leaf’s Medicaid billing practices.

Maple Leaf Farm Treatment Center in Underhill.

Shortly after closing, Maple Leaf filed for bankruptcy in federal court. The judge ordered all creditors, including government entities, to come forward with a claim by May 30.

On that day, the attorney general filed a motion requesting additional time to make its claim, stating Vermont “had an ongoing investigation pursuant to the Vermont False Claims Act regarding the filing of Medicaid claims by Maple Leaf Farm Associates Inc.”

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The AG’s filing says Jason Turner, who leads the Medicaid fraud unit, was working to “ascertain the amount of damages suffered by the Vermont Medicaid program due to the Debtor’s filing of false claims.”

In March, Turner had subpoenaed the attorney overseeing Maple Leaf’s bankruptcy for records that Turner needed to determine the value of the state’s claim against the drug treatment company, according to the filing.

However, the attorney acting as trustee in the bankruptcy case encountered “certain difficulties” locating the documents Turner sought, and the two agreed to an extension for Vermont to file its claim with the bankruptcy court.

A former Maple Leaf employee said in February that Simonds was seen in his office shredding documents during the final days before the company announced a temporary closure would be permanent.

The judge in the case signed an order extending the deadline for the attorney general’s office to file its claim until August, or until 45 days after it received the subpoenaed documents, whichever comes first.

Assistant Attorney General John Treadwell, chief of the criminal division, confirmed Friday that the Medicaid fraud investigation into Maple Leaf is ongoing.

Confirming an ongoing investigation breaks with office policy, but Treadwell said he was able to do so in this case because “there are filings in federal court that affirm it, which are public information.”

Treadwell declined to comment on whether the attorney general has received the records it subpoenaed or if those records had been located.

Phil Scott

​Gov. Phil Scott​ speaks at a news conference in April. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

Gov. Phil Scott said Friday he was aware of the attorney general’s investigation. He said he was not aware whether the Agency of Human Services has other ongoing state investigations into Maple Leaf or its closure.

“I haven’t been privy to any of the information that is part of the investigation, but look forward to hearing whether there’s anything that we should address,” Scott said. “Again, it was unfortunate that in our time of need — and they served us well for over 60 years — that, uh, the closure of Maple Leaf.”

Scott’s remarks came at a ribbon cutting for a 19-bed inpatient drug treatment facility for women operated by Valley Vista, which opened its doors in April.

Approvals for the Vergennes facility were streamlined to help the state respond to the treatment vacuum created when Maple Leaf ceased operations.

The state and addiction medicine doctors were left scrambling to find programs for 160 people served by Maple Leaf’s former outpatient clinic in Colchester.

Meanwhile, the loss of 41 inpatient beds forced the state to refer people seeking help to a program in New Hampshire, until Valley Vista was able to open its facility and the Rutland County-based Recovery House network increased its capacity.

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State officials now say Vermont has sufficient inpatient capacity to meet demand.

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Morgan True

About Morgan

Morgan True is VTDigger's Burlington bureau chief covering the city and Chittenden County. A Seattle native, he graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism before working for several publications in Massachusetts. He came to VTDigger in December 2013 from The Brockton Daily Enterprise, where he covered government, schools and hospitals in a city of about 100,000 people. Before joining The Enterprise, he worked for The Associated Press in Concord, N.H., where he served as a relief reporter in the Statehouse. He previously worked for The Quincy (Mass.) Patriot Ledger and as an intern at the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette.

Email: [email protected]

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