ALBUQUERQUE, NM – There’s an update on an insurance scam that targets native homeless people and takes them from the streets of Albuquerque across state lines.
KOB 4 shows you a first-hand story of what one woman went through. She says she was taken to Arizona with the promise of free rehab. Turns out “rehab” wasn’t quite what they were doing at those so-called sober houses in Phoenix.
Vanesia Maria was living down the street in the International District when she received a text from a friend – whom she hasn’t seen in a while – telling her about this free rehab program in Arizona. It all sounded good on paper, but his time in “treatment” quickly turned for the worse.
“I’m a recovering drug addict now, almost 90 days old. But when I heard about the program, I was in the war zone in Albuquerque,” Maria said.
Shortly after, she was picked up and brought to a home just south of Phoenix where she enrolled in a program called “Recovery for Success,” but organizers said she needed to enroll in a few more. things.
“You have to switch to Indian Access health insurance, and you have to change your food stamps when you get to Arizona,” Maria said.
The executive director of Street Safe New Mexico explains that the insurance policy is the starting point of this scam.
“The whole scam is that they would use that person’s name in their so-called rehab, but use that person’s name to pretend they are a patient, and then charge for the services they performed” said Christine Barber, executive director of Street Safe New Mexico. .
For Maria, it seemed legit at first.
“It was fine in the first house for the first four days, three days,” she said.
Then she was transferred to another supposedly “sober” house.
“They would still allow them to drink, they would let them come home drunk, and at one point – when they were still really hungover – they would allow them to drink in the houses, and the staff would even buy them one or two beers,” Maria said.
KOB 4 tried to search for the program Maria had enrolled in, but there weren’t many results for Recovery for Success in Phoenix. The phone number led to another dead end.
But, when Maria realized she wasn’t getting the help she signed up for, she called her parents. They picked her up and brought her back to New Mexico.
“I canceled the insurance, I canceled the food stamps as soon as they came to pick me up,” Maria said.
But Maria’s troubles didn’t end when she crossed state lines, because the program still had her personal information after she got home, she got a call:
“A week later, I get a call from a doctor’s office saying, ‘Is this so-and-so, is this Vanecia? I said, ‘Yes it is.’ And they said, ‘We’re just calling to make sure it was you who was seen in the hospital that day?’ And I was like, ‘I’m not even staying there, I’m in New Mexico now, I wasn’t even in Arizona that day! I was not seen in any hospital,” said Maria
Maria says she hasn’t had any weird calls about insurance or doctor’s appointments since.
Last week, KOB 4 spoke with a local FBI agent who told us that the Phoenix FBI Field Office is conducting an open investigation into these types of insurance scams.