PHOENIX — Some group homes in the Valley promised to help vulnerable Native Americans become sober but are instead taking advantage of them for money, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The agency said it is now investigating illegitimate group homes in the Phoenix area that it believes are targeting Native Americans in order to collect federal funding.
"It is predicated on the money people are getting,” said Special Agent Antoinette Ferrari with the FBI in Phoenix. She investigates healthcare fraud and complex financial crimes. She said these group homes are taking in Indigenous people, telling them they can help those individuals get sober, but that's a lie.
"They are not getting the services for mental health illnesses or substance abuse that they actually need to be getting," Ferrari said.
The FBI agent said the group homes are making people sign up for Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to make money from federal funds. Ferrari said a lot of money, "We're talking about millions that have gone out."
Taking advantage of Native Americans and the system is "a huge concern for us," Ferrari said. "A lot of times they are put in dangerous situations, sometimes their children are being put into dangerous situations."
Federal agencies aren't the only ones looking into this. According to the Navajo Police Department, they reported more than 60 cases of this happening in Tuba City. Native American's getting picked up off the street in white vans then driven hours away to Phoenix to illegitimate group homes. However, Agent Ferrari says it's not just white vans, but a multitude of vehicles.
The FBI is looking for victims, family members, and even other group homes that have seen this to come forward. You can learn how by clicking here.
12News also spoke with Reva Stewart of the Navajo Nation. She says her cousin was taken by one of these vans in Farmington, New Mexico. "She was approached walking down the street," Stewart says. When she says her cousin got into the van there were four other people inside. The patients were offered alcohol. Stewart says, "They gave them alcohol in the vehicles."
After a several hour drive, they made it to the group home. Stewart says her cousin was told to sign up for AHCCCS. When she refused they told her to leave, with no way of getting back to New Mexico.
Stewart who is heavily involved in the community says she's also seen those vans patrolling the streets of Phoenix. Talking with Native Americans who appear homeless at bus stops. She believes they are trying to convince them to go to these group homes.
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