Nursing home CEO who spent Medicaid funds at strip clubs admits to stealing from employees' benefits accounts

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The former CEO of a Missouri nursing home who embezzled $667,000 in Medicaid funds from the facility for use on personal expenses also took money from workers' 401(k) and health benefits accounts, local reports say.

Johnnie Mac Sells, former owner and CEO of Benchmark Healthcare in Festus, MO, was sentenced to more than three years in prison last month for using the facility's Medicaid funds on trips to gentlemen's clubs, casinos and country clubs. The stolen funds left the now-shuttered Benchmark without money to spend on food, medication and supplements for residents.

Sells pleaded guilty Monday to stealing from an employee benefit plan and stealing from a health care benefit program, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Money was reportedly withheld from employees of Legacy Health Systems, the company previously run by Sells' family, but was never deposited into their 401(k) accounts. The theft went undetected because Sells did not file annual reports, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Dorothy McMurtry. The plan held more than $800,000 in December 2015, but was empty just over a year later.

A total of $20,000 that was meant for employees' healthcare plans was also withheld, despite the fact that the plan was terminated in 2016 for nonpayment. Employees didn't know they didn't have health insurance until their claims were rejected, leaving more than $124,000 in unpaid claims, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Sells' latest pleas were part of a deal in which no prison time will be added onto the 41 months he was already sentenced to. He'll also have to pay back the money he withheld.