There are hundreds of millions of dollars in medical bills that have never been paid. Channel 2 Action News has disturbing new details about a Metro Atlanta business we’ve been investigating since 2019.
The company, Aliera, declared bankruptcy and closed its operations, leaving thousands of people with large medical bills.
Bankruptcy filings reveal Aliera and shared health care ministry Sharity or Trinity left more than $300 million in claims unpaid.
“Are you starting to think, ‘I’m with the bad guys?'” asked Channel 2 investigative journalist Justin Gray.
“I knew there were bad actors,” said Joe Guarino, Trinity’s former president. The bad actors of Aliera and the nonprofit healthcare sharing ministry he served, Trinity, later renamed Sharity.
All are now bankrupt and bankrupt.
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Guarino was hired in 2019 to lead the nonprofit Health Care Sharing Ministry. He wanted to fix it. “I was convinced we could clean it up,” Guarino said.
But looking back, Guarino said he believes Trinity was never set up to operate as a true nonprofit. “It seems, essentially, that Aliera was using this nonprofit as a piggy bank,” Gray said.
“A lot of people told me that. How to deny it, you know? I mean, it’s very obvious the money was coming in, and wherever it went, it wasn’t going to pay the medical bills,” said Guarino.
Paying medical bills was supposed to be Trinity’s goal. It was a so-called health care sharing ministry, but technically not insurance. Members contribute and are expected to share the costs of medical care.
But Trinity only had two employees. Aliera was the medical plan administrator, the company that did all the work.
Over the past three years, Channel 2 investigation told story after story of families whose medical claims were denied by Aliera and Trinity and who ended up with five or even six-figure medical debts.
Gray interviewed the mother of a young girl who needed life-saving brain surgery in 2020. “We had a life-threatening emergency. They let her and us down,” Ashley Segars said.
We first met Will Pollock in 2019. We checked in with him and three years later he still hasn’t received payment for his medication.
Aliera also refused to cover medical expenses for the birth of her now 3-year-old son. “It’s just disgusting. I don’t know what else, I don’t have enough words in English to describe how depraved it is,” Pollock said.
In those bankruptcy filings, we learned the numbers are higher than anyone, even insiders like Guarino, imagined — over $300 million listed in outstanding member claims.
“When you hear that number, $300 million, what do you think of it?” Gray asked.
“I think of the tens of thousands of families who have been kidnapped,” Guarino replied.
Aliera was essentially the family business of Shelley Steele and her husband, Tim Moses.
Former Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland briefly met Steele in 2019.
“We are not a shared health care ministry, Mr. Strickland. We administer only on behalf of ministries,” Steele said.
In 2006, Moses was sentenced to six years in prison for securities fraud and perjury. Steele opened her first healthcare plan the month after her husband was granted parole.
“Did they enter Aliera’s foundation in order to defraud people? I do not know. I do not know the answer. I just hope the right people are looking or trying to find that answer because it matters,” Pollock said.
There are now multiple class action lawsuits, multiple state attorney general investigations, and an FBI investigation into Aliera.
In a November default judgment, a Kentucky court awarded plaintiffs $4.6 million. This lawsuit calls Trinity a “fictitious” shared health care ministry.
“I think the Moses family is mostly to blame,” Guarino said.
“Did they know what they were doing here?” Gray asked.
“I think they did. That’s my personal opinion,” Guarino replied.
When you look closely at those bankruptcy filings, you see that Steele received a loan from Aliera for $6.467 million that she never repaid while medical bills went unpaid.
“It makes me wonder why Aliera was created in the first place,” Guarino said.
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But the Moses family doesn’t talk about that or anything else.
Channel 2 tried to reach them through their lawyers and even visited their multimillion-dollar Sandy Springs mansion several times, but they stayed behind the door.
“Is it fair that you can hide behind the door while thousands of people who trust you have unpaid medical bills?” Gray asked.
“Those responsible for the scam can just retreat to their mansions and not answer the phone. Meanwhile, there are still people who are hurting,” Pollock said.
It is now a very big financial mess in the hands of the courts and the FBI. There is also a trust created as part of the bankruptcy to try to recover money for former clients of Trinity and Sharity.
Among the funds listed in bankruptcy papers as a potential source is Aliera’s outstanding $6.467 million loan to Steele.
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