Former Pennsylvania Nurse Practitioner Gets Six Years in Prison for Sham Mental Health Facility

Tuesday, June 5, 2018
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On May 11, 2018, a former nurse practitioner in Pennsylvania was sentenced to six years in prison for passing off unlicensed people, including a convicted felon, as mental health professionals. Joan Cicchiello had the individuals provide psychiatric care to patients through the mental health care business she operated.

Phony Therapists.

According to prosecutors, Cicchiello owned and operated Twilight Beginnings, which provided mental health services in the state of Pennsylvania. She hired individuals to act as “counselors” for the business and directed them to schedule appointments and meet with nursing patients and adolescents. She pled guilty to one count of health care fraud in 2017 and was sentenced on May 11, 2018, to six years in prison. Additionally, she was ordered to pay $300,000 in fines and restitution for the scheme, which led to fraudulent Medicare billing.

The Unlicensed Employees.

Included in the list of recruits she hired, were a chiropractor and a former social worker who had lost his license after two felony drug convictions, according to prosecutors. She then created false documents to pass them off as credentialed mental health providers.

Additionally, she billed Medicare for the sessions and claimed to be providing them herself, when really she was vacationing abroad, according to prosecutors.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stated that her fake mental health clinic put many  patients at risk, while she was pocketing the payments for her own personal gain. Adequate mental health treatment can be life-changing and sadly in this case, so can substandard care.

To read about a similar case dealing with a mental health counselor in Florida, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Medicare and Medicaid Investigations and Audits of Mental Health Professionals is on the Rise.

Over the past few years, we have observed an increasing number of Medicare and Medicaid investigations and audits being initiated against all mental health professionals. We have also seen a number of investigations and audits initiated against psychologists and mental health professionals who treat assisted living facility (ALF) and skilled nursing facility (SNF) residents. There is a two-part blog on our website on this topic. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

To learn more about how The Health Law Firm can assist you in matters like this, visit our Areas of Practice page.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits, Investigations and other Legal Proceedings.

Medicaid fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the state MFCU, the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA), the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), the FBI, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Often other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and other law enforcement agencies participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today. Often Medicaid fraud criminal charges arise out of routine Medicaid audits, probe audits, or patient complaints.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at


Cueto, Emma. “Ex-Nurse Gets 6 Years For Hiring Phony Therapists.” Law360. (May 11, 2018). Web.

Rubinstein, Noah. “50 Warning Signs of Questionable Therapy and Counseling.” (February 12, 2008). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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