PORTLAND — A jury on Friday convicted a Winthrop woman who owned a counseling agency in Lewiston on multiple counts of felony welfare fraud.

Federal investigators converge on the office of Facing Change in Lewiston.

Nancy Ludwig, 65, owner of the Facing Change mental health and substance abuse counseling agency was found guilty after a five-day trial in federal court on nine counts of health care fraud conspiracy, paying kickbacks, using fraudulent medical documents and obstructing an audit. The jury took less than two hours to deliberate.

All of the counts are felonies. She faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. She’s expected to be sentenced after a presentence investigation report by the U.S. Probation Office is complete. Ludwig has been free on personal recognizance.

According to trial testimony in U.S. District Court, Ludwig conspired with a Somali interpreter and others to commit health care fraud.

Prosecutors presented evidence showing that beginning in February 2015, Ludwig agreed to pay interpreter Abdirashid Ahmed kickbacks in return for Ahmed bringing MaineCare beneficiaries to Facing Change. Ahmed and other Facing Change workers submitted false claims to MaineCare for counseling and interpreter services, according to prosecutors.

In 2016, in response to a MaineCare regulatory change, Ludwig and Ahmed conspired to change the diagnosis of many Facing Change clients to schizophrenia so they could remain eligible to receive MaineCare (Maine’s Medicaid) reimbursement for services at Facing Change. That same year, auditors with the MaineCare Program Integrity Unit audited Facing Change.

Ludwig and many of her employees conspired to manufacture false records in an attempt to deceive the auditor, prosecutors argued at trial. The fraud continued until May 1, 2018, when federal and state agents executed search warrants at Facing Change and Ahmed’s business, they said.

In May, Ahmed pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit health care fraud. Garat Osman, another interpreter, pleaded guilty in May to a felony charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Four other people connected to this case have been convicted of federal health care felonies, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Halsey Frank. Two additional defendants agreed to civil settlements.

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