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Man barred from running care facilities says he helped operate Missouri group home destroyed in fire

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A man convicted in a Medicare fraud scheme and barred from running long-term care facilities said Wednesday he had been paid to help operate a group home for the mentally ill that was recently destroyed in a fatal fire.

Robert Dupont's involvement with Anderson Guest House has become an issue as authorities investigate the cause of a Nov. 27 fire that killed 10 and injured two dozen at the group home. State law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony involving a health care facility from being an ``operator'' or ``principal'' in a long-term care facility.

Dupont said Wednesday he resigned as an officer of the group that ran the home, Joplin River of Life Ministries, after his conviction in 2003. His wife, Laverne, now is executive director.

``I assist with the total operations,'' Dupont, 62, of Joplin, said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press. Dupont said he is paid to help operate Joplin River of Life Ministries but doesn't hold any particular title.

A call placed to Joplin River of Life Ministries after business hours Wednesday was not immediately returned.

If it is determined he was an operator of any facilities, the facilities could lose their licenses, be forced to return Medicaid payments and face fines. It was unclear whether Dupont could face charges.

Dupont said his involvement with the Anderson Guest House and other group homes should have been obvious to state inspectors he dealt with. Officials in the state health and mental health departments insisted they had no idea Dupont had any operational role when they granted licenses to his facilities.

``I have operated these facilities all over the state for 20 years,'' Dupont said. ``I think it's legitimate that I would be there assisting in the operation of these facilities, and I've never been questioned by any of the agencies on what my role was.''

Health department spokeswoman Nanci Gonder said Dupont was not listed ``as being in any way involved in the operation of any facilities'' in the agency's licensing documents.

The state Department of Health and Senior Services, the Department of Mental Health and Attorney General Jay Nixon all are investigating Dupont's involvement with the group homes. The Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also could open an investigation, though it will not confirm doing so.
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