ATLANTA — There are hundreds of millions of dollars in medical bills that were never paid. Channel 2 Action News has disturbing new details about a metro Atlanta company that we’ve been investigating since 2019.
The company, Aliera, has declared bankruptcy and closed its business, leaving thousands of people with big medical bills.
Bankruptcy filings reveal Aliera and the health care sharing ministry it services, Sharity or Trinity, left more than $300 million of claims unpaid.
“Do you start to think, ‘I’m with the bad guys?’” asked Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray.
“I knew that there were bad actors,” said Joe Guarino, the former president of Trinity. Bad actors at Aliera and the non-profit health care sharing ministry it serviced, Trinity, later renamed Sharity.
All of them are now bankrupt and out of business.
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Guarino was hired in 2019 to run the non-profit health care sharing ministry. He wanted to fix it. “I felt confident that we could clean it up,” said Guarino.
But looking back now, Guarino said he believes Trinity was never set up to function as a true non-profit. “It seems, essentially, Aliera was using this non-profit as a piggybank,” said Gray.
“Many people have said that to me. How do you deny, you know? I mean, it’s very obvious that money was coming in, and wherever it was going, it wasn’t going to pay medical bills,” said Guarino.
Paying medical bills was supposed to be Trinity’s purpose. It was a so-called health care sharing ministry, but technically not insurance. Members pay in and are supposed 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 Investigates has told story after story of families who had their medical claims rejected by Aliera and Trinity and were left 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 failed us and her,” said Ashley Segars.
We first met Will Pollock in 2019. We checked back with him and three years later, he still never received payment for medications.
Aliera also refused to cover the medical bills for the birth of his now 3-year-old son. “It is just repugnant. I don’t know what else, don’t have enough words in the English language to describe how depraved that is,” said Pollock.
In these bankruptcy filings, we’ve learned the numbers are greater than anyone, even insiders like Guarino, imagined – more than $300 million listed in outstanding member claims.
“When you hear that number, $300 million, what do you think?” asked Gray.
“I think of the tens of thousands of families that have been taken,” replied Guarino.
Aliera was essentially the family business of Shelley Steele and her husband, Tim Moses.
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Former Channel 2 Consumer Investigator Jim Strickland caught up with Steele briefly in 2019.
“We’re not a health care sharing ministry, Mr. Strickland. We only administer on behalf of the ministries,” said Steele.
In 2006, Moses was sentenced to six years in prison for securities fraud and perjury. Steele opened her first health care plan the month after her husband got off parole.
“Did they go into founding Aliera with the purpose of defrauding people? I don’t know. I don’t know the answer. I just hope the right people are looking or trying to find that answer because it’s important,” said Pollock.
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 $4.6 million to plaintiffs. That lawsuit calls Trinity a “sham” health care sharing ministry.
“I do think that the Moses family is primarily to blame,” said Guarino.
“Did they know what they were doing here?” asked Gray.
“I think they did. That’s my personal opinion,” answered Guarino.
When you look closely at those bankruptcy filings, you see that Steele received a loan from Aliera for $6.467 million that she never paid back while medical bills went unpaid.
“It makes me wonder why Aliera was created in the first place,” said Guarino.
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But the Moses family isn’t talking about that or anything else.
Channel 2 tried to reach them through their attorneys and even went repeatedly to their multi-million-dollar Sandy Springs mansion, but they stayed behind the gate.
“Is it fair that you can hide behind the gate while thousands of people who put their faith in you have unpaid medical bills?” asked Gray.
“The people responsible for grifting can just retreat into their mansions and not answer the phone. Meanwhile, there are people still hurting,” said Pollock.
This is now a very big financial mess in the hands of the courts and the FBI. There is also a trust set up as part of the bankruptcy to try to recoup money for former Trinity and Sharity customers.
Among the money listed in the bankruptcy documents as a potential source is that $6.467 million outstanding loan from Aliera to Steele.
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