BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A Montana mental health counselor who pleaded guilty to billing Medicaid for counseling sessions that never happened has been sentenced to 135 days in jail and ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution to the government insurance program for low-income people and those with disabilities.
The legal case against Dana Trandahl of Butte began in 2016 when a patient reported Trandahl used their counseling sessions to complain about her ex-husband and their extended custody battle over their children. The patient said Trandahl tried to get her to plant drugs in the cars of Trandahl's ex-husband and his wife.
The charges of felony solicitation of criminal possession and distribution of dangerous drugs were dropped when the patient died of a seizure disorder in March 2017. Trandahl denied any wrongdoing, but a civil lawsuit filed by the client's mother alleging Trandahl caused her daughter severe emotional distress was settled privately, the Montana Standard reported.
State Medicaid investigators began reviewing Trandahl's billing practices based on her client's claims that she did not receive any counseling. Separately, the mother of a developmentally disabled woman contacted Medicaid to say Trandahl had billed for counseling services that her daughter did not receive.
Trandahl, 57, pleaded guilty to two counts of Medicaid fraud.
District Judge Kurt Krueger sentenced Trandahl on Tuesday, giving her a 10-year suspended prison sentence with numerous probation requirements and restrictions, t he Montana Standard reported.
“The defendant manipulated her clients not only for monetary reasons, but for her own personal means, exploiting their trust and developing personal relationships for her own personal benefit," Krueger said, in surpassing the 45-day jail sentence prosecutors had recommended as part of a plea agreement.