Pittsfield Firefighters Quickly Knock Down Fires in Two Apartments
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — City firefighters were busy Wednesday morning with two fires.
Crews were called to Worthington Street for a structure fire. While there, another call came in about a fire on Fenn Street.
Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Noyes said the call came in shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday about a fire at three-family building on Worthingston Street. Upon arrival, smoke could be seen coming out of a second floor window, and crews found a small fire in a bedroom of the second-floor apartment.
Noyes said they were able to get the fire under control within about 10 minutes.
"We're just waiting for the investigators," he said.
The Red Cross has been called to assist the four people who live in the second floor, which is currently unusable, as well as the eight people in the first-floor apartment, which sustained water damage, Noyes said. The third floor was not affected.
While crews were assessing the Worthington situation, a call came in about a fire on Fenn Street.
Chief Robert Czerwinski, on the scene of that fire, said firefighters responded to 458 Fenn St. for a fire on the stove of the second floor apartment in the multi-family home. By the time they arrived, the occupant had extinguished the fire.
"Everybody's out, everybody's safe," Czerwinski said, adding that the damage was "mostly cosmetic" and the occupants - a man and his daughter - would not be displaced for long, if at all.
Czerwinski and Noyes said the Fire Department was able to successfully manage the back-to-back calls.
"We had to split up some crews," Czerwinski said, adding that two engine companies had still been in service when the second call came.
Noyes said there was a minor delay for a company to get to Fenn Street because it was at Worthington but it didn't have any impact.
"Luckily we were able to knock both fires down quickly," he said.
Pittsfield Fire Damages Montgomery Avenue Duplex
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Several pets were killed when a fire erupted on the first floor of a duplex on Montgomery Avenue shortly after noontime on Tuesday.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated but appears to be limited mostly to 7 Montgomery Ave. The 9 Montgomery Ave. side suffered "significant smoke damage."
Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Noyes said the department responded to the report of a structure fire and firefighters arriving on scene could see smoke coming out the building.
A least three windows were blown out by the blaze. Next door neighbor Tony Paredes said the fire expanded quickly. He said he heard a scream and in moments flames burst through the smoke-filled structure's windows.
The fire was contained fairly swiftly with the flames extinguished well before 1 p.m. but there were worries it might have spread through the structure.
"We were a little concerned when we saw smoke coming out of a vent from the basement area," Noyes said.
"Shortly after we had a line to the main body, we sent a crew to the basement. ... That's always a challenge if you have a possible basement fire ... but it turned out to be a little fire."
Everyone was out of the building by the time firefighters arrived. There were a number of pets, however, that apparently succumbed to the fire, including cats, although a snake was saved.
The building and health inspectors are currently evaluating the structure.
"The left side of the duplex has got heavy fire damage in the front room and in the basement," Noyes said. "There is heavy smoke damage throughout the building and some water damage.
"The right side has significant smoke damage, not any water damage, no fire damage that I can see."
According to land records, the home is owned by Melissa Gallagher and Sara Hollander.
Early Morning Fire Damages Merriam Street Residence
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A second floor porch of a Merriam Street home sustained extensive damage in an early morning fire on Monday.
The Pittsfield Fire Department responded to a reported structure fire at 75 Merriam St. at 3 a.m. Monday. Upon arrival, firefighters reported fire showing on the front porch of the second floor apartment but were quickly able to knock it down.
Minor damage was found on the inside of the second floor apartment and the building sustained minor water and smoke damage.
There were no injuries reported. The cause of the fire is undetermined.
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Pittsfield Man Among Caretakers Charged With Defrauding State Medical System
BOSTON – A personal care attendant (PCA) and four PCA surrogates have been charged with allegedly defrauding the state's Medicaid program of more than $230,000 by falsely billing for services not rendered and double billing in a number of different cases, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
Among those indicted is Frederick Phillips, 55, of Pittsfield, who allegedly stole $47,000 from MassHealth by double-billing for PCA and adult foster care services simultaneously between March 2011 and November 2013. Phillips was the PCA surrogate for his disabled brother.
The matter was referred by MassHealth after it received information that Phillips was both the PCA surrogate and AFC caretaker for his brother and purposely participated in and billed for both programs, in violation of MassHealth regulations.
A Berkshire County Grand Jury returned the indictment on Feb. 10.
Phillips was indicted on one count of Medicaid false claims and one count of larceny over $250 by false pretenses. He was arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court on Wednesday, Feb. 17, when he pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on personal recognizance. Phillips is due back in court on May 2 for a pre-trial hearing.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Evelyn Tang and was investigated by Senior Investigator Michael Russo and Investigator April Waterhouse, all of Healey's Medicaid Fraud Division, with assistance from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG).
A total of 18 indictments were returned by Plymouth, Berkshire, Essex, and Worcester County grand juries and are the result of criminal investigations conducted by Healey's Medicaid Fraud Division. A criminal complaint, including charges of neglecting a disabled person, has also been issued against a PCA who will be arraigned in Boston Municipal Court on March 2.
The cases include allegations of billing MassHealth for services that were not provided, double billing for PCA and adult foster care (AFC) services, and charging for home care when a patient was hospitalized, along with several other schemes.
"MassHealth provides critical healthcare services for people who otherwise cannot afford them," said Healey in a statement. "We allege that these individuals exploited this system and defrauded taxpayers, while at the same time diverting resources from those in need."
The MassHealth PCA Program helps people with chronic or long-term disabilities live independently. The program provides funds to pay PCAs who help patients with activities of daily living while members receiving the services act as the PCA's employer. By regulation, PCA services cannot be provided while a MassHealth member is admitted to an inpatient facility or nursing home.
MassHealth members who are unable to manage the hiring, training and firing of PCAs themselves may pick a "surrogate" to act for them (typically a family member or legal guardian). MassHealth does not allow surrogates to provide PCA services, and does not pay them to act as surrogates.
The other individuals charged are:
• Crystal Clark, 36, of Haverhill; indicted by an Essex County Grand Jury for allegedly she submitting fraudulent timesheets as the PCA surrogate for her disabled son. Authorities allege that she billed MassHealth more than $64,000 for services that were not provided.
• Mary Yost, 53, of Middleborough; indicted by a Plymouth County Grand Jury for allegedly double-billing MassHealth for more than $86,000 by billing for PCA and AFC services given to her disabled son simultaneously between May 2009 and April 2014.
• Scott Gibeault, 49, of Southbridge; indicted by a Worcester for allegedly submitting fraudulent timesheets indicating PCA services were provided by individuals who were out of state, working other jobs, or unable to provide service because the consumer was admitted to an inpatient facility.
• Tamekha Lewis-Sturrup, 29, of Dorchester; a criminal complaint was issued against her in Boston Municipal Court for allegedly fraudulently billing for approximately $8,600 in PCA services not rendered and for failing to provide services to a consumer resulting in hospitalization.