(Columbus) - A Cleveland-area home health aide was supposed to be taking care of patients, but instead was gambling at a casino. What makes that illegal is that she was charging the state's Department of Medicaid for the time.

Ellanora Whiting, 39, will spend two years in prison and be forced to repay more than $234,000.

"This home health care aide claimed she was visiting patients' homes at the same time that she was actually visiting places including casinos and resorts," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Investigators found that Whiting had billed Medicaid as if she was working at several places at once. She also billed the state multiple times for having worked more than 24 hours a day.

"This is a rip-off of taxpayers, it's unfair to the patient, and it's just dead wrong," DeWine said.

Two Medicaid recipients, Michael Hunter and Roxie Hodges of Cleveland, were also charged for taking kickbacks in connection with Whiting's illegal billing. Both pleaded guilty to charges of complicity to commit theft. Hunter must re-pay nearly $123,000 and Hodges must re-pay approximately $56,000 of Whiting's restitution.

DeWine says these types of cases are hard to catch without help from the public.

"In spite of the difficulty we return tens of millions of dollars to taxpayers every single year based on these investigations," he said.

Ohioans can report suspected Medicaid fraud to Attorney General DeWine's office by calling 1-800-282-0515 or visiting www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.

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