AUGUSTA — On May 8, a daily service worker from Fullcircle Supports Inc. worked with Mark Marlett of Augusta as usual, taking him on errands and helping him with other needs.

The next day Marlett got a phone call at 7:30 a.m., saying the agency had closed and would no longer be providing him with 20 hours a week of daily living support service, case management and payee services — or assisting him in locating a new home.

“I went into a panic,” said Marlett, 30. “I almost went into crisis at that point. It’s not a good thing but I dealt with it.”

It was the same day the state terminated the Fullcircle Supports contract over allegations of fraud.

Fullcircle Supports Inc., owned and operated by Toni Richards of Temple, provided assistance to about 300 individuals with mental disabilities and mental illness in the Augusta area and employed about 100 workers, both full- and part-time.

“We absolutely made everyone aware (of the closing), and gave clients three options,” Richards said Thursday. Information given to the clients offered them state contacts as well as other agency phone numbers. She said she also supported staff and encouraged them to go to the Career Center, a state service that helps place people in jobs.

“We are working diligently to be sure things are done correctly,” she said. “It’s just very sad.”

Former employees, however, have made numerous complaints that they did not receive their wages on May 12 as anticipated.

In response to a question regarding the pay, Richards said, “I have to refrain from speaking about that.”

Tomi Minchin, another client of Fullcircle Supports, remains upset about the disruption and loss of services resulting from the abrupt closure.

“I was outraged, mad and disgusted that the owner would actually do something like that,” Minchin said this week outside her Augusta apartment. “It’s like she didn’t gain anything but hurt the other people out there that need the help and (the workers) that needed the jobs.”

Both Marlett and Minchin had the same caseworker, Morla “Mo” Connor, 38, of Augusta. When she went from part-time to full-time at Maine Vocational Rehabilitation Associates, they followed her.

For Marlett, that means she should be able to help him find new quarters. He said his eviction notice says he must be out by May 26. But he will be without daily living services until more people can be hired to work with him.

“I relied on them so much these past three years. It was a shocker,” he said. “If not for my caseworker’s support, I would have been in the hospital.”

On Thursday, he was still without most services, and continued to worry about becoming homeless. “Everything I was doing to find housing is gone,” he said, sitting on the stairs outside his apartment building.

So is his food budget. Without the support of direct care workers, he lacked a ride to the grocery store, so he walked to a nearby convenience store. “I spent a month’s worth of food stamps because I didn’t have no ride to go anywhere,” he said.

He’s also hoping to get a new payee, a person who manages his finances.

Marlett, who grew up in South China, has received services for mental health reasons since he was a child.

Minchin, 30, received daily living services and case management through FullCircle, and she has received services her entire life.

“I don’t like leaving my home cause I have depression and anxiety,” she said. “My workers were helping me with going out in the community and with appointments so I wouldn’t be anxious and were there to advocate for me to make sure I got what I needed.”

Daily living service providers assist her with cleaning her apartment, taking her to pay her rent and other bills, getting to the food bank, and working with her as she volunteers to help with animals at the Kennebec Valley Humane Society.

“The dogs are bigger than me,” said Minchin, a slight woman who stands about 5-foot-5.

While she awaits the return of service workers — which she anticipates to be about a month away — she said her mother will try to assist with some things.

Without rides, Minchin said she will have to rely more on the Kennebec Explorer bus service. “Taxis we can’t afford as clients,” she said.

Connor said Friday she learned that the state Department of Labor had a fund to help the displaced workers

Samantha Edwards, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, said in an email sent May 12 that the state agency acted on “credible allegations of fraud” and “was federally required to suspend payment and did so on April 28, 2017.”

DHHS sent Fullcircle Supports a violation notice “for noncompliance with the MaineCare Benefits Manual” on May 5, according to Edwards, who would not elaborate on details of the violations or fraud allegations.

“Upon further review, MaineCare terminated the provider agreement with Fullcircle Supports on May 9,” she wrote. “The department was officially notified on the same day that the provider ceased operations. The department is working to identify and contact clients to smoothly transition them to other area providers.”

Edwards said via email that the department could give no more details about the ongoing investigation, and she did not respond to inquires sent Thursday or Friday. Once a fraud allegation is deemed credible, an investigation is conducted by a state or federal law enforcement agency.

Two central Maine mental health agencies that saw their MaineCare payments suspended by the state in 2013 for allegations of fraudulent billing had the payments restored in July 2014 after federal investigators declined to pursue further action.

The payment suspensions forced the two companies, Umbrella Mental Health Services and AngleZ Behavioral Health Services, to shutter, leaving around 500 clients in the Kennebec and Lincoln counties region without MaineCare-funded services and more than 100 people without jobs.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams