January 25, 2011
• Posted in

Michelle Alta Russell pleaded guilty to Aggravated Identity Theft, First-Degree Theft and Making a False Claim for Health Care Payment

Attorney General John Kroger today announced that a Springfield woman received a 19-month prison sentence for stealing nearly $39,000 from the state Medicaid program —a significant sentence in a theft case.

“Stealing from the Oregon Health Plan is unacceptable,” said Attorney General Kroger.

Michelle Alta Russell (DOB: 2/11/58) was sentenced today in Lane County Circuit Court to 19 months in prison after pleading guilty on January 18 to two counts of Aggravated Identity Theft, one count of First-Degree Theft and one count of Making a False Claim for Health Care Payment. She was also ordered to pay $38,887 in restitution.

Russell, a home care provider, quit working for a disabled elderly woman three years ago. The Oregon Department of Human Services mistakenly continued to send her pay vouchers, which the provider and recipient are both supposed to sign, indicating how many hours the provider worked for the recipient. The voucher is then submitted to DHS, which cuts a paycheck for the provider based on the number of hours worked. Russell forged the signature of the disabled elderly woman on the vouchers, claiming she had provided many hours of care for her, when she had in fact worked none.

Russell’s partner, Nick Allan Cerkoney (DOB: 1/17/61), helped with the fraud toward the end by depositing the ill-gotten gain into their joint credit union account.

Their scheme unraveled when the Eugene branch of the Department of Human Services, Seniors and People with Disabilities suspected fraud and referred the matter to the Oregon Department of Justice Medicaid Fraud Unit.

Cerkoney pleaded guilty January 18 to two counts of First-Degree Theft and was sentenced to 20 days in jail, two years probation during which time he is not to handle Medicaid funds and was ordered to pay $5,827 in restitution.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Ballard prosecuted Russell and Cerkoney.

The Oregon Department of Justice is recognized as a national leader in the fight against health care fraud. In addition to prosecuting criminal health care fraud, the Department of Justice has filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for conducing fraudulent marketing campaigns. In the past year alone, the Department of Justice Medicaid and Financial Fraud units recovered $33.5 million for Oregon from companies like AstraZeneca, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline and Omnicare for defrauding Oregon consumers and the state Medicaid program.

Attorney General John Kroger leads the Oregon Department of Justice. The Department’s mission is to fight crime and fraud, protect the environment, improve child welfare, promote a positive business climate, and defend the rights of all Oregonians.


Tony Green, (503) 378-6002 |