Lawyers Fight Fraud Ruling St. Simons Island Home-Health Giant Jailed

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Lawyers for former St. Simons Island home-health

giant Robert "Jack" Mills were back in federal court yesterday

seeking to overturn his 1996 Medicare fraud conviction.

Two members of a three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals panel

hinted they might agree with Mills' lawyer that there was at

least one legal error in the Medicare fraud trial -- that limits

were placed on the cross-examination of the government's final

witness.

But a federal prosecutor argued if an error was made, it was

harmless and did not have significant bearing on the outcome.

Mills was the second of two Georgia home health-care titans

to wind up behind bars in consecutive years after being

convicted of Medicare fraud.

The owner of Augusta-based Healthmaster, Jeanette G.

Garrison, admitted she charged off more than $1 million worth of

personal expenses as business costs for her Medicare-reimbursed

chain. Among the excesses: an employee's honeymoon, tickets to

World Series games in Minnesota and the Democratic National

Convention in New York, and campaign contributions to leading

Democrats.

Garrison is serving a 33-month federal prison sentence after

pleading guilty in 1995 to 10 felony counts. Two of her

financial experts, Dennis J. Kelly and David W. Suba, fought the

charges in court and got longer terms.

Healthmaster was sold at bankruptcy auction and renamed by

the new owners -- as was its fiercest competitor, Mills'

Brunswick-based First American Health Care.

Mills and his company were convicted last year on 69 felony

counts -- later reduced to 28 counts by a federal judge -- and

ordered to pay the government $115 million from the sale of

First American, at that time the nation's largest privately

owned home-care chain. …