A Butte mental health counselor fraudulently billed Medicaid at least $73,525 for services she never provided and listed some recipients who were never her clients, prosecutors say.
They say Dana Trandahl, 55, also got tens of thousands of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements between 2012 and 2016 for services to people investigators could not find, according to charging documents that now include detailed accusations.
Just before initiating the new case in May, prosecutors dropped remaining charges against Trandahl for allegedly trying to get a client to plant meth and other drugs on her ex-husband, his wife, and the attorney representing him in a long-running dispute over child custody.
Prosecutors said they had to dismiss charges because the client, 33-year-old Aimee Hardesty, died in March 2017 after the case had been filed. That meant Trandahl could not exercise her constitutional right to confront and question her accuser.
Trandahl says she was completely innocent of those charges, but she is to be arraigned July 12 for alleged Medicaid fraud. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine 10 times the amount of Medicaid payments obtained illegally.
A voicemail message was left Thursday morning at the office of Ed Sheehy, Trandahl’s public defender, seeking comment. Repeated efforts by The Montana Standard to reach Trandahl over the past two years have been unsuccessful.
State Medicaid investigators began reviewing Trandahl's billing practices based on Hardesty’s claims that instead of receiving any actual counseling, Trandahl spent their time talking about her own “family discord” and efforts to regain custody of her children.
“Trandahl also spent the time formulating her plan to have A.H. (Hardesty) plant drugs in her ex-husband’s car and his attorney’s office,” the charging document says.
Several sessions and contacts were fraudulently billed to the Medicaid insurance of a man who attended counseling sessions with Hardesty in 2016, prosecutors say.
In October 2016, state investigators received an unrelated complaint against Trandahl from the mother of a developmentally disabled woman. She said Trandahl had billed Medicaid for several services that had not occurred.
According to an investigator, there was a "billing trend or scheme where Trandahl was billing significant counseling sessions coded ‘without patient present’ to several other DD (developmentally disabled) consumers and child recipients, as well as other clients.”
Some recipients had received limited services from Trandahl, but she continued to bill Medicaid for services that did not occur, the investigator reported.
“Other recipients had obtained services for themselves individually and Trandahl had billed services to family members that were never considered clients,” the charging document says. Other recipients said they had never received any services from Trandahl but that she billed for several counseling sessions.
The investigator said Trandahl initially declined to provide records that would support her billing, but she did produce several client files in April 2017.
However, the “vast majority of individual progress notes were contextually unreadable based upon being mostly illegible” prosecutors said, and the “legible portions consistently neglected to specify who Trandahl was contacting for the billed service.”
Recipient statements established that Trandahl had been reimbursed at least $73,525 between 2012 and 2016 for services she did not actually provide, they said. And the investigator was unable to contact several others who shared the same billing trend.
“In that respect, Trandahl had been reimbursed tens of thousands more dollars during the same time frame,” the charging document states.
The state has listed 29 people it intends to call as witnesses to the allegations. Judge Kurt Krueger is overseeing the case.
Trandahl was arrested for the allegations on May 18. She was released the same day after posting $5,000 bond.