CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A Charlotte woman pleaded guilty Tuesday for her involvement in a conspiracy to defraud Medicaid out of $4.8 million for sham mental and behavioral health services, federal prosecutors announced.

Rodnisha Sade Cannon, 26, also pleaded guilty to stealing a therapist s identity to commit the fraud and money laundering conspiracy.

Prosecutors said Cannon and her co-conspirators submitted approximately $4.8 million in false claims to Medicaid from 2010 to 2012, resulting in payments of over $2.5 million to Cannon and her co-conspirators.

Cannon and her co-conspirators operated after-school and summer childcare programs in Gastonia and Shelby. Prosecutors said Cannon and others devised the scheme to defraud Medicaid by using Medicaid provider numbers assigned to other companies and therapists. In many instances, authorities said, the claimed mental and behavioral health services were never provided.

Cannon and others redirected the Medicaid payments away from the Medicaid providers bank accounts and to bank accounts controlled by Cannon and her co-conspirators, prosecutors said.

Cannon was not licensed or qualified to provide mental and behavioral health services, and she was not approved by Medicaid.

Cannon admitted that she used the proceeds to purchase a 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 for $59,500, prosecutors said.

Stealing money from Medicaid degrades the integrity of our health care system and victimizes those who rely on this important health care program for legitimate patient care, U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins said. The money that Cannon stole through her health care fraud scheme was intended to cover patient needs, not to purchase luxury items.

Prosecutors said Cannon also worked with Victoria Brewton, who pleaded guilty in January 2013 to carrying out a similar $8 million Medicaid scheme in Shelby. Cannon assisted Brewton by providing and selling Medicaid beneficiary identification numbers and information to be used in Brewton s fraud, according to prosecutors. Brewton has not been sentenced.

Cannon faces a mandatory two years in prison for the identity theft charge. The health care fraud charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The money laundering conspiracy charge also carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison. Her sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

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