Prosecutors have now charged a Butte mental health counselor with 13 separate counts of Medicaid fraud and two more felonies for allegedly billing Medicaid tens of thousands of dollars for services she never provided and listing recipients who were never her clients.
Dana Trandahl was initially charged in May 2018 with one count of Medicaid fraud, which carries a maximum 10-year prison term and fine up to $50,000 or 10 times the value of payments obtained.
Newly amended fraud charges, plus one count of identity theft and one count of tampering with evidence, collectively carry sentences up to 150 years, possibly more.
Trandahl pleaded not guilty to the amended charges Thursday and District Judge Kurt Krueger set the next hearing for Dec. 5. He also granted a request from Trandahl’s public defender, Ed Sheehy, that she undergo a mental evaluation.
She remains free on bond but Prosecutor Ann Shea asked that she refrain from contact with any alleged victims in the case, a condition of her earlier release while the case is still pending.
Just before the initial fraud charge was filed last year, prosecutors dropped remaining charges against Trandahl for allegedly trying to get a client to plant meth and other drugs on her ex-husband, his wife, and the attorney representing him in a long-running child-custody dispute with Trandahl.
Shea said then that she dismissed a remaining felony charge because the client, 33-year-old Aimee Hardesty, died in March 2017 after the case had been filed. That meant Trandahl could not exercise her constitutional right to confront and question her accuser. Regardless, she denied any wrongdoing.
The Butte-Silver Bow Coroner’s Office ruled that Hardesty's death was caused by a seizure disorder.
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State Medicaid investigators began reviewing Trandahl's billing practices based on Hardesty’s claims that instead of receiving any actual counseling, Trandahl spent their time talking about her own “family discord” and efforts to regain custody of her children.
Several sessions and contacts were fraudulently billed to the Medicaid insurance of a man who attended counseling sessions with Hardesty in 2016, prosecutors said in the initial charging document.
In October 2016, state investigators received an unrelated complaint against Trandahl from the mother of a developmentally disabled woman. She said Trandahl had billed Medicaid for several services that had not occurred.
Investigators said there was a "billing trend or scheme where Trandahl was billing significant counseling sessions coded ‘without patient present’ to several other DD (developmentally disabled) consumers and child recipients, as well as other clients.”
Some recipients had received limited services from Trandahl, but she continued to bill Medicaid for services that did not occur, the investigator reported.
Prosecutors recently amended their allegations, charging Trandahl with 13 separate counts of fraud, each for making Medicaid claims for services she did not provide to different adults and/or in some cases their kids. Each count is punishable by up to 10 years.
They also charged her with identity theft for allegedly obtaining Medicaid ID numbers, birth dates, names and/or Social Security numbers of children and family members of patients and using them to submit fraudulent claims. That carries a maximum 10-year sentence, or 20 if the victims are minors.
Prosecutors also say Trandahl made up fake treatment notes for counseling sessions with Medicaid patients that never occurred when she knew the state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit was investigating her billing practices. She is charged with tampering with or fabricating physical evidence for that, which is punishable by up to 10 years.