Zeigler is acquitted of Medicaid fraud

OKEECHOBEE — The embattled former executive director of the Okeechobee Rehabilitation Facility was found not guilty of medicaid fraud earlier this week by a six-member jury of her peers.

The jury deliberated nearly three hours Thursday, Dec. 10, before returning with the acquittal of Nancy Marie Zeigler, 54.

She was arrested Nov. 24, 2014, for supposedly billing Medicaid for adult day care, transportation and respite care that amounted to more than $34,000, stated a press release from Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office.

Although she was found not guilty Thursday, Zeigler still has one more legal hurdle to clear.

On March 15, 2015, she was arrested on a warrant charging her with the felony of worker’s compensation fraud. Her docket call on that charge has been set for Jan. 6, 2016, at 1:15 p.m. in front of Circuit Court Judge Dan Vaughn.

She was arrested on a warrant obtained by Detective William Hill of the state’s Department of Insurance Fraud, and will be prosecuted by assistant state attorney Lev Evans.

Court records indicate Zeigler will again be defended by Okeechobee defense attorney Glenn Sneider, who successfully represented her in her most recent court case.

Zeigler’s problems began to surface when the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) shut off Medicaid funding to the local rehab facility on Oct. 15, 2013. The state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs and the Florida Department of Financial Services – Division of Insurance Fraud also opened up investigations.

The local non-profit facility was established to improve the quality of life for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

While those probes into the facility did not find that any of the clients had been mistreated, the way the facility was run was called into question.

The rehab facility was once known as the Association of Retarded Citizens (Arc). It had to stop referring to itself as the Arc because it was in arrears on paying its dues to the state Arc by more than a year.

When the facility lost its funding, it also lost its clientele. And when it no longer had any clients, the Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners voted in December of 2013 to evict the facility from its county-owned building because it had apparently defaulted on its lease.

The facility leased the building from the county for $1 a year.

In court proceedings Wednesday, Dec. 9, Circuit Court Judge Sherwood Bauer granted Mr. Sneider’s motion for acquittal on the original second-degree felony charge. He based his ruling on the fact that prosecuting attorney Cynthia Ann Carrino, from the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, failed to show proof that Zeigler actually received anything of value.

Judge Bauer, however, ruled the initial charge would be reduced from a second-degree to a third-degree felony and he would let the jury decide if Ms. Carrino had proved her case.

A trial date on Zeigler’s second case has not been set.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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