State drops charge in alleged massive billing scheme

By Stephen Betts | May 08, 2017

Rockland — The state has dismissed a theft charge against the former manager of the spa at the Trade Winds Motor Inn, who is accused of stealing more than $200,000, including overbilling the MaineCare program by more than $100,000.

The dismissal in the Michael Morrison case was filed Friday, May 5, in Knox County Unified Court by the District Attorney's Office. The court document simply listed "other" as the reason for the dismissal.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Fernald said Friday he could not say anything more about the dismissal.

While the state has dismissed the case, fraud involving Medicaid money can lead to federal charges. No charges have been filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark said Monday that the office will not comment on whether or not there is an investigation into the matter. Morrison's attorney, Philip Cohen, of Waldoboro, did not return a call for comment.

Morrison, 40, had been arrested Jan. 26 and charged with Class B theft by deception. He has been free on bail since the day of his arrest.

His arrest followed a lengthy investigation by the Rockland Police Department that began in July 2016 when the president of the Trade  Winds reported that financial irregularities had been found at the fitness center. Those irregularities included that for the past 18 months no cash deposits had been made from the tanning equipment.

An internal review found that Morrison was making purchases through Amazon with the company credit card for items supposedly for the fitness center, but which turned out to have been delivered to his home. A lot of the items were sporting equipment for hockey and softball, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit also reported the Maine Attorney General's Office was investigating $123,000 in ove billing paid to the fitness center by the state's MaineCare Program. The Maine Attorney General’s Health Care Crimes Unit was investigating the matter, according to paperwork filed in court. That alleged theft began in 2010, according to police.

In addition, the health club reported a loss of about $128,000 since 2010 while Morrison was managing it, according to the affidavit.

The review also determined that $19,125 in personal items were purchased by Morrison on the business' credit card from 2014 through June 2016, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit stated that when the Trade Winds management began its investigation, it researched newspaper archives and found that Morrison had been accused in 2003 of involvement in missing money from a bank he worked at then.

In 2003, Banknorth filed a lawsuit against Morrison, seeking reimbursement of $10,225. He countersued for defamation against the bank. That lawsuit was dismissed later that year. Details of any settlement were never released, according to records in Knox County Unified Court.

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