Four Staten Island couples were arrested Thursday, accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-supported welfare while they were living in lavish homes and receiving six-figure incomes from rental properties, investments and business they owned.
District Attorney Daniel Donovan, Jr., announced charges of third-degree welfare fraud and grand larceny against the eight Staten Island residents.
The defendants had been on the welfare rolls for years, despite living in million-dollar homes in some of Staten Island's most exclusive neighborhoods, driving around in luxury cars and getting plenty of revenue from their investments, said Donovan.
One couple, 61-year-old Hanna Youssef and 55-year-old Zaka Youssef, received over $40,000 in Medicaid benefits since 2008, even though they owned a $1.4 million gated Todt Hill home and a strip mall on 350 Forest Ave. that brought in more than $14,000 a month, said Donovan. They also recently sold a restaurant in Brooklyn for $700,000.
Hany Mekhael, 41, and Jackline Farag, 37, fraudulently received $36,600 in Medicaid benefits since 2006, despite having more than $2.1 million in real estate assets and a reported annual income of up to $174,000 a year, said Donovan.
Richard Costa, 53, and Carrie Costa, 50, claimed they made $400 a week as day laborers in order to qualify for Medicaid in 2008, said Donovan. But on lease applications for the two Mercedes Benz sedans the couple drives, Richard Costa reported making $250,000 a year as vice president of a Manhattan Garment District company.
Kathleen Trabulsi, 33, and Rashad Trabulsi, 34, received $30,000 in Medicaid benefits since 2008, even though they own a lucrative chiropractic clinic in Brooklyn and several high-price properties, as well as a Hummer, an Infiniti and an Audi.
"These defendants clearly had the means to pay for their own health care," said Donovan. "They lived the 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless,' bilking taxpayers out of tens of thousands of dollars at a time when so many people are out of work or struggling just to make ends meet."
The defendants were arraigned in State Supreme Court. If convicted on top charges, the defendants could face up to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.