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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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2nd Man Charged With Murder in 2014 Big Y Parking Lot Shooting

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A city man has man is facing murder charges related to the shooting of a Goshen man in 2014.
 
Laquan Johnson, 20, was arraigned on single counts of murder, armed assault with intent to rob, and illegal possession of a firearm. He had not-guilty pleas entered on his behalf and was ordered by Judge Paul Smyth to be held at the Berkshire County House of Correction without bail.
 
Johnson is accused of shooting Anthony Gamache, 29, of Goshen on Nov. 18, 2014. Gamache died the following day at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. 
 
Dr. Henry Nields, the chief medical examiner for the state, said Gamache died because of a blood clot caused by a gunshot wound to the leg. 
 
According to reports at the time, Gamache was with friends in the Big Y parking lot waiting for an alleged drug deal when he was shot. He was driven to Cooley Dickinson and the transferred to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. After returning home, Gamache felt pain in his leg and was transported back to Cooley Dickinson, where he died.
 
Peter Campbell, who was then 18, was arrested shortly after the shooting and charged with second-degree murder, two counts of armed assault with intent to rob, and single counts of possession of a handgun during the commission of a felony and illegal possession of a firearm. He was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the charges that December.
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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.

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Death of 11-Year-Old Hannah Nazareth Still a Mystery

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The cause of 11-year-old Hannah Nazareth's death may never be known.
 
District Attorney David Capeless' office said on Monday that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner was unable to determine a cause of death because of the condition of her body.
 
The bodies of Hannah and her father, Anthony Nazareth, 52, were found inside their third-floor apartment at 72 Plunkett St. on Aug. 3. 
 
The autopsy showed that Anthony Nazareth died of a heroin overdose just days before his body was discovered. The results showed Hannah died "as much as a month before her father." 
 
"Followup conversations with the Chief Medical Examiner's Office indicated that the lack of definitive results was due in great part to the decomposition of Hannah's body. Additionally, in the case of Hannah, no significant external trauma was noted and the results of toxicology testing was unremarkable," reads a report for Capeless' office. 
 
Anthony Nazareth is also said to have provided false and misleading information about his daughter's whereabouts to different agencies during the month of July. However, none of those agencies followed up to determine if the 11-year-old was safe and healthy.
 
"Hannah Nazareth was failed by a number of people. While there is no indication that different action may have saved her, her dignity in death was not honored and questions will always remain about how, and why, she died," Capeless said in a statement.
 
The investigation did lead to the arrest of 52-year-old Michael Blowe for allegedly stealing from the apartment the day before police discovered the body. 
 
Blowe was arrested over the weekend and had not-guilty pleas entered on his behalf in Central Berkshire District Court on single counts of breaking and entering in the daytime, and larceny from a building. Judge Thomas Estes ordered that he be held at the Berkshire County House of Correction on $1,000 bail. 
 
Blowe is accused of stealing a television, DVD player, clothing, food and a ballet belonging to Anthony Nazareth on Aug. 2, 2015.
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Fire Displaces Five Pittsfield Residents

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Thursday night fire caused nearly $10,000 worth of damage to a Worthington Street home.
 
Deputy Fire Chief Daniel Garner said the department received a report at 7:43 p.m. of a basement fire at 10-12 Worthington Street, located near the intersection of West Housatonic Street and Center Street. The fire displaced five residents from the two-family home but nobody was injured.
 
Garner estimates some $8,000 to $10,000 worth of damage. 
 
On arrival, firefighters found fire encompassing a small room in the laundry area in the rear portion of the cellar.
 
"Engine 3 mounted an aggressive attack with a 1-3/4 inch handline, knocking down the main body of the fire within minutes," Garner wrote in a statement.
 
Firefighters from Engine 1 secured a water supply and assisted with a secondary attack line. Engine-5 searched the whole building to see if the blaze extended elsewhere — finding it had breached into a bedroom. The extending fire was extinguished. Tower 1 ventilated the structure and Engine 6 stood by on alert. 
 
"The fire was under control within 45 minutes. City building, wiring, and health inspectors arrived. Eversource and Berkshire Gas shut down service to the building until repairs can be made," Garner wrote. "A total of five occupants were displaced by this blaze."
 
Garner says fire damage was confided to 25 percent of the basement and there was "moderate" smoke damage to the first and second floors. The cause of the fire is being investigated by Pittsfield Fire Department and the state fire marshal's office. 
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