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Nonprofit loaned CEO money for airplane

SANTA FE, N.M. — As state officials forced out managers of nonprofit behavioral and mental health care agencies this summer, they have said Medicaid dollars shouldn’t pay for a private airplane.

It has been brought up at legislative hearings and in the media by state officials.

The airplane in question belongs to Roque Garcia, formerly the acting CEO of Southwest Counseling Services of Las Cruces and head of Rio Grande Behavioral Health Services.

Garcia bought the single-engine, four-seat Cirrus aircraft with a $200,000 loan from Southwest Counseling Services, a behavioral and mental health Medicaid provider, and said the loan idea came from a board member.

Garcia said that “not one dollar of Medicaid money was used to buy the aircraft.”

“The board had money sitting in a CD making a marginal interest rate. I offered to pay them a higher interest rate so I could buy the plane,” he said.

Garcia said his extensive in-state travel on behalf of Southwest Counseling and Rio Grande Behavioral Health Services made the plane economical.

Federal Aviation Administration records show flights outside New Mexico to the East Coast and Mexico in recent years.

Garcia was employed by Providence Service Corp. of Arizona, a for-profit company with $1 billion in annual revenues, which covered the cost of his travel along with his salary.

“They provided an allowance to operate the plane,” Garcia said.

Garcia said the airplane allowance he gets from Providence appears on the books of Southwest Counseling Services and/or Rio Grande Behavioral Health Services to comply with accounting standards.

A 2010 IRS filing shows the travel allotment for Garcia at $12,505, in addition to his $122,000-a-year salary.

Garcia’s employment with Providence ended on June 30, when the state Human Services Department suspended Medicaid payments to Southwest Counseling after an audit that found credible evidence of Medicaid fraud and abuse.

According to IRS records, the loan had been paid down to $115,000 in 2011. Garcia said the balance is owed to the nonprofit.

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