Obscure UMass employee stole $3.4 million in state funds

He was a $46,000-a-year financial analyst in an obscure office of the University of Massachusetts Medical School who somehow managed to drive a Porsche, collect Salvador Dali paintings, and build a palatial home for himself. When people asked about his sudden, showy affluence, Leo Villani would explain that he had inherited money.

But it turns out that Villani came into his wealth quite another way: He stole it, quietly siphoning off nearly $3.4 million from payments intended for the state Medicaid insurance program over the past five years, an internal investigation has found. It may be the biggest theft by a state employee in more than a decade.

Officials at the Worcester medical school discovered the alleged scam only after Villani died in a one-vehicle accident in late December and a review of his work found discrepancies in the account where he was supposed to deposit checks for the Medicaid program, called MassHealth. They eventually learned that Villani had set up a dummy corporation to which he had been diverting state funds for years.

But the fact that the alleged theft went on for so long without being detected is raising troubling questions about how well UMass Medical safeguards its vast public resources. Villani’s office, part of the school’s Commonwealth Medicine division in Shrewsbury that provides consulting services, collected more than $500 million on behalf of MassHealth over the past decade…

So far, one Commonwealth Medicine supervisor has been dismissed while several other workers have been disciplined, and the medical school has called in an outside auditor to figure out what went wrong…State officials also say they hope to recover some of the stolen money from Villani’s widow…

And UMass’s Keohane defended the quality of Commonwealth Medicine’s work for MassHealth, stressing that Villani’s case was unique and not a reflection on their management of public money.

It’s a long and detailed article, wandering through just some of the twists and turns of the embezzled funds. Nothing outstanding in terms of techniques. Just the record of a state not up to modern standards of either bookkeeping or record-keeping.

His widow is responding to all enquiries through her lawyer. Of course.

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