Two hospital management companies shelled out more than $825,000 to a business they thought successfully recruited dozens of health care workers in Tennessee, federal prosecutors said.
But the “employees” reportedly turned out to be random names pulled from the internet — none of whom were ever actually hired.
Now Tyrone Floyd Berry, the 46-year-old man behind the sham recruitment company accused of scouring social media for candidate names, has been sentenced to one year and one day in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee said Friday in a news release.
Berry, of Lawrenceburg, was also ordered to forfeit $247,734.
A defense attorney representing the Tennessee man did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Monday.
But prosecutors said he didn’t act alone.
Berry is accused of conspiring with 43-year-old Fairview resident Aaron James Hill, the “mastermind” who took a 70% cut of the illegally obtained money, prosecutors said in court filings.
A defense attorney representing Berry had requested a sentence below the recommended guideline range of two to three years, saying he is a father of five, served in the Navy and now works as a welder.
“All evidence indicates that this was an isolated situation that was out of character for Mr. Berry, and that Mr. Berry has fully accepted responsibility for his actions and stands ready to accept the consequences,” his attorney said in sentencing documents.
According to the Justice Department, Hill was a human resource coordinator at Community Health Services in Franklin, Tennessee, when the alleged fraud began in August 2015.
CHS affiliates own, operate or lease about 84 hospitals in 16 states, according to its website.
Hill’s job duties included selecting recruiting vendors for CHS, prosecutors said, and he worked with Berry to create “Berry Recruiting & Consulting” as one such vendor.
Berry searched LinkedIn, Craigslist and other social media pages to find “the names of unsuspecting job seekers” who were interested in working in health care, according to the Justice Department. He then sent their names to Hill, who is accused of submitting fake invoices to his company claiming those individuals had been hired.
The pair reportedly submitted 38 invoices and received $257,469 from CHS before Hill left the company in April 2016.
Prosecutors said Hill then took a job as an employee relations manager at Quorum Health Corporation in Brentwood. Quorum operates 22 hospitals and 15 outpatient centers in 13 states, according to its website.
Hill and Berry are accused of repeating the same recruiting scheme at Quorum, where prosecutors said they submitted 33 fake invoices and received $567,765.
“The investigation determined Hill and Berry simply recycled the names of employees previously recruited by other firms and hired by Quorum Health,” prosecutors said in the release.
Berry and Hill submitted a total of 71 fake invoices for more than $825,000 before the companies caught on to the scheme in 2017, prosecutors said. Court filings show the money was deposited into Berry’s personal bank account, withdrawn in large amounts and split between the two.
Berry and Hill pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts each of wire fraud.
Hill was sentenced in July to two years and nine months in prison, the Justice Department said. He was also ordered to forfeit $577,500.