• Special needs school owner accused of $4.5M in Medicaid fraud could be freed from jail

    By: Jason Kelly , Sarahbeth Ackerman


    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - The owner of an Orlando special needs school who’s accused of defrauding the government might be freed from the Orange County Jail Friday.

    Maria Navarro, the owner of the Angels Center for Autism, and Judith Benech, a school administrator are accused of filing $4.6 million in fraudulent Medicaid claims.

    The women are accused of using the money to buy three homes and more than a dozen cars.

    Investigators said the pair billed Medicaid for eight-hour one-on-one therapy sessions with students, but officials said they only had enough staffing to provide two-hour sessions.

    A sign was placed on the school’s front doors last week, saying it would be closed for several days.

    On Thursday, the sign was no longer on the door.

    Channel 9 reported on Tuesday that the Florida Department of Education and nonprofit organization Step Up for Students will no longer provide funding for the school after the allegations of Medicaid fraud.

    To be freed from jail, a judge ordered that Navarro must first prove that the funds she uses to pay her bail weren’t fraudulently obtained.

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