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 we’ve been investigating since 2019.
The company, Aliera, filed for bankruptcy and went out of business, leaving thousands of people with large medical bills.
Bankruptcy filings reveal that Aliera and the health care sharing ministry it serves, Sharity or Trinity, left more than $300 million in unpaid claims.
“Are you starting to think, ‘I’m with the bad guys?’” asked Justin Gray, Channel 2 consumer researcher.
“I knew there were bad actors,” said Joe Guarino, a former president of Trinity. The bad actors in Aliera and the nonprofit health care ministry it served, Trinity, later renamed Sharity.
All of them are now bankrupt and out of business.
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Guarino was hired in 2019 to lead the nonprofit health care sharing ministry. He wanted to fix it. “I felt confident that we could clean it up,” Guarino said.
But looking back now, Guarino said he believes Trinity was never set up to function as a true nonprofit. “It appears, essentially, that Aliera was using this nonprofit as a piggy bank,” Gray said.
“A lot of people have told me that. How do you deny it, you know? I mean, it’s very obvious that the money was coming in and wherever it went, it wasn’t going to pay the medical bills,” Guarino said.
Paying medical bills was supposed to be Trinity’s purpose. It was a so-called health care sharing ministry, but it wasn’t technically insurance. Members pay and are supposed to share the cost of health care.
But Trinity only had two employees. Aliera was the administrator of the medical plan, the company that did all the work.
Over the last three years, Channel 2 Investigates has told story after story of families who had their medical claims rejected by Aliera and Trinity and left with five or even six figure medical debt.
Gray interviewed the mother of a 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 with him again, and three years later, he still hasn’t received payment for the drugs.
Aliera also refused to cover the medical bills for the birth of her son, who is now 3 years old. “It’s just disgusting. I don’t know what else, I don’t have enough English words to describe how depraved he is,” Pollock said.
In these bankruptcy filings, we’ve learned the numbers are bigger than anyone, even insiders like Guarino, imagined: more than $300 million listed in pending member claims.
“When you hear that number, $300 million, what do you think of?” Gray asked.
“I think of the tens of thousands of families that have been taken away,” Guarino replied.
Aliera was essentially the family business of Shelley Steele and her husband, Tim Moses.
Former Channel 2 consumer researcher Jim Strickland briefly met Steele in 2019.
“We are not a health care sharing ministry, Mr. Strickland. We only administer on behalf of the ministries,” Steele said.
In 2006, Moses was sentenced to six years in prison for securities fraud and perjury. Steele opened her first health care plan a month after her husband got out of parole.
“Did they go into founding Aliera with the purpose of defrauding people? I don’t know. I do not know the answer. I just hope the right people are looking or trying to find that answer because it’s important,” 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 the plaintiffs $4.6 million. That lawsuit calls Trinity a “phony” health care exchange ministry.
“I think the Moses family is the main culprit,” Guarino said.
“Did they know what they were doing here?” Gray asked.
“I think they did. That is my personal opinion,” Guarino replied.
When you look closely at those bankruptcy filings, you see that Steele received a $6.467 million loan from Aliera that he never paid while the medical bills went unpaid.
“It makes me wonder why Aliera was created in the first place,” Guarino said.
But the Moses family isn’t talking about that or anything else.
Channel 2 tried to contact them through their lawyers and even repeatedly went to his multi-million dollar mansion in Sandy Springs, 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.
“The people responsible for the scam can simply retreat to their mansions and not answer the phone. In the meantime, there are people who continue to suffer,” Pollock said.
This is now a very large financial disaster in the hands of the courts and the FBI. A trust was also created as part of the bankruptcy to try to recover money from former Trinity and Sharity clients.
Among the money listed in the bankruptcy documents as a potential source is Aliera’s outstanding $6.467 million loan to Steele.
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