It felt good to be back to work, even if she was confined to her home. She’d missed a full week, and things had stacked up. She would see what she could accomplish today, then hit it again on Monday.
Stuart had suggested temporarily setting up shop in Ruben’s garage until the repair work could be completed. Ruben was due back Sunday night. They’d find out then what he thought of the idea.
She dropped her arms to stroke the cats, who were lying in the chairs on either side of her. While Stuart had been at her place last night, he’d also filled her in on the latest developments. The investigators had the results of the chemical analysis. They’d picked up gasoline.
Lacey hadn’t expected any different. But hearing the words had turned her blood to ice. Those results had eliminated all possibility that the fire was accidental and she’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
She gave each cat a final scratch on the head and returned to the information on the screen. A legal pad sat beside the keyboard, a pen lying across it. A long column of dates lined the left side, amounts next to them—all the claims Advanced had processed for Chirbani over a one-month period. She’d chosen November, because they should have received every one of those payments by now.
She pulled up the first claim. It was filed with Medicare on November 2. After a couple of clicks, she viewed what the clinic had submitted. That had come in on November 1. Advanced’s processing of the claim had been prompt.
She started to click to the next claim, but hesitated. The information Chirbani submitted only had two chargeable items. What was sent to Medicare had three. She toggled between the two windows. Whoever processed the claim had added a chest X-ray to the office visit and antibiotic injection that had been originally submitted. She checked the processor’s initials. DP, Darla Patterson.
Lacey’s chest tightened. It had to have been a mistake, an item accidentally put on the wrong form.
Over the next two hours, she scoured each claim. Nine others had the same kind of discrepancies. Darla had processed all of them. Ten out of more than five hundred. It wasn’t a huge percentage, or even a large amount of money—just under two thousand dollars. But if she was doing the same thing with all of Advanced’s clients, she had a nice side business going.
Besides Lacey herself, five people processed claims. Of them, Darla was Advanced’s newest employee, at just over a year. Her first responsibility was handling accounts payable, but she also did claims processing in her spare time. She was the only employee with the means to pay herself.
All checks went to Ruben to be signed, but if he was anything like his father had been, that didn’t mean anything. During the periods Lacey had handled accounts payable, Stuart had signed whatever she’d put in front of him, trusting her 100 percent.
Bile churned in Lacey’s stomach. Anyone except Darla. Sharon and Jeanne were in their forties, kids almost raised. Arlene was nearing retirement. Paula was newly married.
But Darla was a single mom with no family. Allegations like this wouldn’t just ruin her life. They’d ruin the lives of her two young children.
Lacey pulled her lower lip between her teeth. Compassion or honesty? As a Christian, she knew God wanted both. But what if they were in conflict with one another?
If she kept quiet and the fraud eventually came to light, no one would blame her. She wasn’t supposed to be comparing claims filed with what doctors’ offices submitted. She’d been looking into delayed payments, then followed a rabbit trail.
She dropped her gaze to her phone, longing to talk to someone. Jason.
But she’d spoken with him around lunchtime. After her weekly chemo treatment, his mom was having a horrible day. Lacey didn’t need to bother him.
She’d rather not bother her father, either. He’d spent Christmas and New Year’s with her aunt and uncle in Florida and wouldn’t be back for another week.
She knew what she had to do. She couldn’t ignore what she’d discovered. First thing Monday morning, she’d go to Ruben. The crime needed to be reported. But she’d leave that up to him.
Whatever happened, Darla’s fate, and that of her children, would be in the hands of someone else.
So why did she still feel so sick?
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