Nixon sues Joplin group home owner

A fatal November fire led to an investigation of Medicaid payments.
Friday, December 15, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:29 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon on Thursday sued the owner and operator of a group home where 10 people died in a fire, claiming the business had been secretly and illegally run by a man previously convicted in a Medicare and Medicaid fraud scheme.

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

A Nov. 27 fire at the business’s Anderson Guest House in southwest Missouri killed 10 people and injured two dozen.

Nixon alleges that River Life of Ministries — which also operates three other group homes for the mentally ill and disabled — lied to state regulators to conceal the fact it was run by Robert DuPont, who was sentenced to federal prison in 2003 after pleading guilty in a fraud scheme.

DuPont was barred by state law from operating a long-term care facility and prohibited under federal law from participating in the Medicaid program.

Although none of the business’s state licensing applications listed DuPont as the operator following his convictions, DuPont acknowledged in an interview last week that he had continued to be paid to assist his wife, LaVerne DuPont, in the operations of Joplin River of Life Ministries.

“LaVerne DuPont is a figurehead behind which Robert DuPont conceals his activities,” Nixon said in the lawsuit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court. The lawsuit claims Robert DuPont controlled the company’s management, finances and decision making — even overriding the board of directors if he did not agree with it.

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