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[MM Curator Summary]: Jessica Parisella used her disabled to son to rack up $150k of bogus Medicaid claims for a family friend and for another ABA company.
BEVERLY — During the summer and fall of 2020, Jessica Parisella and Don Martel were fighting a plan to move Parisella’s disabled son to a group home.
Jonathan Jutras, now 22, had been a client of the Department of Developmental Services for years, receiving services from providers like Martel, whose company was being reimbursed by MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, for counseling Jutras.
His mother, meanwhile, acted as her son’s surrogate to collect MassHealth funds to pay a personal care assistant, a family friend.
After Jutras went to jail in 2019, those payments should have stopped, prosecutors say.
And that family friend? He lives on Nantucket, and, prosecutors say, agreed to sign blank time sheets for Parisella — who allegedly kept all of the money, totaling $120,648 — starting as far back as 2017.
Martel and his company, meanwhile, allegedly billed the state $35,045 for applied behavioral analysis services that he and his employees could not have provided to Jutras while he was in custody in 2019.
Parisella, 42, of Danvers, and Martel, 67, of Georgetown, both pleaded not guilty to charges of felony larceny and Medicaid fraud during their arraignments Tuesday in Salem Superior Court.
Both appeared in court in response to summonses that were sent after their indictments last month by an Essex County grand jury.
Because of that, Assistant Attorney General William Champlin did not seek bail for the pair — but did ask Judge Thomas Drechsler to set several conditions of release, including no contact with each other.
But both Parisella and Martel balked at some of the other proposed conditions — leading Drechsler to schedule a hearing next week on the issue.
Martel, who was deemed indigent and appointed a lawyer from the Committee for Public Counsel Services, did not want to agree to a condition that he not bill MassHealth for any services.
Nathaniel Spinney, the public defender, told the judge that such a prohibition would prevent Martel from earning money. “That is my client’s entire ability to work,” Spinney told the judge.
And Parisella objected to an order that she have no contact with the Nantucket man, Richard Jervah, while the case is pending.
Drechsler, citing the provisions of the state’s bail law, told lawyers for the pair and the prosecutor that he has no authority to impose conditions of release unless the defendants agree to them.
He also, however, told them that he would allow the attorney general’s office to change its request and seek bail for the pair.
He scheduled another hearing for Feb. 1.
Jutras suffers from several physical and mental disabilities, including a chronic lung condition and congenital hip issues, as well as being diagnosed on the autism spectrum, bipolar and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. His mother told The Salem News in 2020 that Jutras functions at the level of someone half his age.
In 2019, he was arrested and charged with indecent assault and battery on three boys at a Beverly playground, after getting out of the Beverly apartment where his older brother was supposed to be watching him.
But his developmental issues made him incompetent to stand trial.
At the same time, officials were concerned that if released, Jutras could pose a danger.
His physical and mental health issues also made him vulnerable inside the jail, however, and his attorney sought and found a placement in a supervised forensic group home operated by Turning Point Inc. But Parisella and Martel objected to that plan, instead proposing that Martel be given funds to start a new program.
The dispute led to a months-long fight over guardianship.
Jutras was eventually moved to a supervised program in Boston, and later to a supervised group home, where he now lives. The charges against him remain open.
While their cases involve the same profoundly disabled young man, Champlin stressed that Parisella and Martel are not co-defendants and that their alleged schemes were separate.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis
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