Arizona Pastor Indicted for Health Care Fraud

Michael Salman, a pastor from Phoenix, Ariz., who is in jail after being found guilty of code violations in connection to a building where he held a weekly Bible study, has now been indicted for defrauding the state's Medicaid program of over $118,000.

A state grand jury indicted Salman on felony charges concerning lying about his household income to receive benefits from AHCCCS or Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, according to a statement by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.

Salman, an ordained pastor of Church of God in Christ and founder of Harvest Christian Fellowship, also lied in a statement to the state Department of Economic Security, Horne said.

The pastor's wife, Suzanne Salman, and his brother, Frank Salman, are accused in the case. Horne said the pastor and his wife had a monthly income of $6,000 to $8,000 but they claimed they earned $1,600.

The grand jury indicted the 39-year-old pastor on one count of fraudulent schemes and artifices, one count of theft, three counts of forgery, and one count of perjury. AHCCCS paid out $73,000 for his family's medical coverage, and $45,000 for Frank Salman's family.

"It is unacceptable for anyone who does not legitimately need AHCCCS assistance to devise this kind of scheme that ultimately rips off taxpayers and depletes badly-needed resources for the truly needy," Horne said in the statement on Wednesday. "My office is determined to root out and bring to justice anyone who perpetrates fraud on the State and its taxpayers."

Salman has been in jail for about 50 days since he was given a 60-day jail sentence after being found guilty of 67 misdemeanors related to an illegal building he constructed in his backyard, and his unwillingness to comply with the City of Phoenix's zoning rules.

Salman previously served nearly six years in prison for a drive-by shooting -- where he was caught with LSD -- and was also booked into jail once for impersonating a police officer, according to Phoenix New Times.

At the center of Salman's church dispute with the city, which started in 2007, was whether the 2,000 square foot building in his backyard is a church. Before his conviction, Salman held Bible study gatherings inside the building, where around 30 or 40 people gathered weekly. The building has a pulpit and chairs.

According to the prosecutor's office, Salman was given a building permit to convert a garage into a "game room," not a church.

In 2009, police officers, armed with a search warrant, raided Salman's property and found 67 code violations. The pastor was charged with not having emergency exit signs over the doors, handicap parking spaces, and not having handicap ramps.