Sheriff’s Office: Dorchester woman jailed after using paramedics for free rides
A Dorchester woman is accused of feigning illnesses to bum free ambulance rides around the Lowcountry on the state’s dime, authorities said.
Dorchester County sheriff’s deputies have charged Audrey Ferguson, 51, of Rosa Lane with misuse of 911 and giving a false report, arrest affidavits state.
When Ferguson called paramedics complaining of a cough April 2, she didn’t know she was the subject of an ongoing investigation stemming from similar calls that she’d placed in the past, deputies said.
Sheriff’s Office records indicate emergency workers were called to Ferguson’s home about 100 times between January 2005 and this week. The overwhelming majority of those calls were for health-related complaints, records show.
On numerous occasions, Ferguson called paramedics giving a just vague description of what were likely feigned symptoms, Emergency Medical Services director Doug Warren said. And every time, an ambulance was rushed to her home to transport her to a local hospital.
“You have to remember that probably less than 10 percent of the calls we get are actually life-threatening emergencies,” Warren said. “But this particular woman clearly was using us to get transported, and the state was paying for it.”
Each trip cost $425 plus an additional $7 per mile, Warren said. That money didn’t come out of Ferguson’s pocket, he said. Medicaid and taxpayers were left footing the bill.
In March, Warren notified deputies of the potential misuse.
Deputies asked dispatchers to send an alert the next time an ambulance was called to Ferguson’s home. That call came April 2, deputies said.
Deputies watched from a distance as paramedics pulled into Trident Medical Center about 10 p.m., an incident report states.
Ferguson waited for paramedics to walk away before asking a nurse if she could call her son, deputies said. During the call, Ferguson told the North Charleston man that she made it to the hospital and needed him to pick her up.
She then hung up the phone, and told a nurse that she was fine after all and didn’t need treatment, the report said.
Deputies followed Ferguson to the hospital’s exit and placed her under arrest, according to the report.
Ferguson made several unsolicited comments on the ride to the jail, deputies said, including a statement that she didn’t have a car and calling paramedics was the only way she had to get around.
Medicaid paid for it anyway, she told deputies, and that it was a part of her benefits.
Ferguson said that she had been getting around this way for a long time, and she questioned why deputies were only arresting her now, according to the report. She worried about whether the arrest would cause Medicaid to cut her off, deputies said.
Ferguson was held at the Dorchester County jail in lieu of $2,450 bail, court records show.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.