Renee Tartaglione (left) and Ward Leader Carlos Matos (right)(Inquirer)

Tartaglione Trial Is This Week

Photo cred (Steven M. Falk/Inquirer)

The living embodiment of Philadelphia corruption

Every six to twelve months in Philadelphia there is some machine-endorsed Democrat who goes down in flames and gets sucked into the criminal justice system.  Right now we’re dealing with the fallout of District Attorney Seth Williams.

But that’s not the only game, or trial, in town.

Up comes the dynamic duo of Renee Tartaglione and Carlos Matos accused of bribery, money laundering and defrauding Pennsylvania Medicaid whose trial begins today.   Renee was once a deputy City Commissioner who had her direct mitts on the voting process in Philly.  Carlos is a Federal ex-con who has a mafia-like grip as ward leader over the Norris Square neighborhood in Kensington.  He once was ordered by a Federal judge to stay away from politics.  Alas, he can’t stay away.

The pair are part of the hidden class of Philadelphia Democrats known as ward leaders.  They control who gets endorsement and voter support for lower level offices.   That is until this recent Tuesday when machine Democrats were swamped by angry progressives who did not want their sample ballots.

Juniata Mental Health Clinic

Juniata Mental Health Clinic

Absconding with your tax dollars

Tartaglione’s primary scheme was operating the Juniata Mental Health Clinic.  Both Juniata and Feltonville are awash with a large array of Medicaid billing providers.  Juniata Mental Health was one of the larger ones.

And now it's closed forever

And now it’s closed forever

One day Sheree Brown, a manager that Tartaglione hired was frustrated with her job as a medical biller.  Her job was to electronically file the Medicaid claims for the clinic so Renee would get paid.   She felt like she was being bullied into adding on work to the claims which was not performed.

According to Brown…

While employed with [Tartaglione], [Brown] became aware of what appeared to be fraudulent billing practices of [Juniata Mental Health] including over-billing for psychotherapist time, improper psychotherapy billing for services performed [by people] not licensed to perform psychotherapy.

Tartaglione’s response in court was to file a default answer, deny everything and hit Brown up for $50,000.   The matter was later settled.

But this clinic spawned CityPaper, an alt-weekly which shut in 2015 and this website to start posting about Juniata Mental Health.  The FBI certainly was reading.

A few months after the initial stories ran, the FBI raided Juniata Mental Health.

That prosecution so far has yielded a federal guilty plea out of former state representative Leslie Acosta.   She was forced to step aside as the investigation connected her to money laundering, cashing checks for Renee Tartaglione and returning the funds.

Secrecy and seals

One thing that’s different about the Tartaglione trial over the Williams trial is how much of the criminal case’s contents is kept under wraps.   Most likely this is due to privacy concerns with the former patients who were on the bills, but others involved in the case say they’re not allowed to talk about it. Even the judge back in January of this year filed a sealed order against Tartaglione.

One thing that is interesting though is some of the evidence that Federal prosecutors intend to drag up.  Like this:

At trial, the Government seeks to present audio recordings from two sources: (1) phone calls placed by Defendant’s husband, Carlos Matos, while Matos was incarcerated in federal prison (referred to as the “prison recordings”), and (2) conversations between Matos and a cooperating witness, Sandy Acosta (referred to as the “witness recording”). (Doc. No. 57 at 6.) Defendant argues the recordings should be suppressed for several reasons. (Doc. No. 72.) She contends that the prison recordings are protected by spousal privileges and are irrelevant.  (Id. at 4-6.) She also asserts that the witness recording cannot be admitted because it does not satisfy authentication and relevancy requirements, and is inadmissible hearsay. (Id. at 7-8.) For reasons that follow, this Court will grant the Government’s Motion (Doc. No. 57) and will permit the use of the recordings at trial.