Months after home health agency shut down abruptly, former owner pleads guilty to Medicaid fraud

MILWAUKEE -- More than two years after a home health care agency shut down abruptly, the former owner has pleaded guilty to Medicaid fraud. As part of the settlement, the former owner of Deaconess owes nearly $4 million. This, as one former employee tells FOX6 News she still hasn't received her final paychecks.

Roxanne Trigg

"I can remember it so well that it`s like, it felt like it just happened yesterday," Roxanne Trigg said.

It was back in April of 2013 when Deaconess employees surrounded offices on the city's north and south sides -- demanding their paychecks.

The business closed without any notice.

We would later learn Deaconess had no money because the state stopped paying out Medicaid reimbursements due to suspicions of fraud.

Deaconess protest

"I cried for two hours straight," Trigg said.

Roxanne Trigg wedding

Worse yet, Trigg says this happened a few days before her wedding.

"I didn`t have the money to pay the lady to do my hair or my makeup for my wedding," Trigg said.

Trigg says thankfully, a friend stepped in and paid her stylist. Trigg is still waiting for her last two paychecks from Deaconess.

Deaconess protest

A plea agreement filed in federal court last month shows Deaconess' former owner Lazarus Bonilla pleaded guilty to the fraud charge and agreed to pay back more than $3.7 million.

Records show the feds have already seized more than $2 million from Bonilla's bank account.

As for the fraud, the documents lay out a system in which Deaconess "instructed nurses to routinely inflate" the assessment of patient needs, allowing the company to bill Medicaid for treatment patients didn't need.

While there's now a plan to repay Uncle Sam, Trigg says she's still waiting.


"You damaged a lot of people. You hurt a lot of people. A lot of people lost our jobs. A lot of us depended on that job," Trigg said.

FOX6 News has reached out to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, which handled Deaconess workers' wage complaints. We're till waiting for an answer as to the status of that investigation.

Under the plea deal, the maximum penalty for Bonilla is up to five years probation and a $500,000 fine.

READ IT: Statement from U.S. Department of Justice on Bonilla plea deal.