NYPD Surgeon, 19 Others Charged in $146M Insurance Fraud Scheme: DA - NBC New York

NYPD Surgeon, 19 Others Charged in $146M Insurance Fraud Scheme: DA

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    Doctors are among those accused of ripping off taxpayers to fund lavish homes, trips and more in a $146 million health care scheme. Lori Bordonaro reports.

    (Published Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017)

    An NYPD surgeon and three doctors are among 20 people accused of running a scheme to bilk nearly $146 million out of publicly funded healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

    Authorities said 14 corporations are also named in the 878-count indictment for the alleged scheme to pay homeless and low-income people in Brooklyn between $30 and $50 to go to specific clinics where they would receive a bevy of unnecessary tests for which government-funded insurers would then pay the clinics.

    “This massive scheme, which provided no patient care at all, wasted millions of taxpayer dollars dedicated to Medicaid and Medicare, which serve as a lifeline for so many Americans – our families, our friends, our neighbors,” said Acting Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez. “I cannot and will not allow this type of corruption and fraud to take place in Brooklyn and will spend every resource to stop it.”

    Authorities said that a group of recruiters, office staff, managers, money launderers -- and the four doctors -- ran the scheme between the start of 2015 and the end of last month.

    In most cases, authorities said recruiters would approach people on the street outside a soup kitchen in East New York or a job center in Bushwick and offered to pay them if they could show a Medicare or Medicaid card and agree to be examined at one of three clinics, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Canarsie and Crown Heights.

    Officials said that once the so-called patients got there, they would receive a battery of unnecessary tests including allergy tests, cardiograms, ultrasounds and nerve tests. 

    Then, authorities said, they paid four doctors -- including NYPD surgeon Dr. Robert Vaccarino, Dr. Hamid Alam, Dr. Kevin Custis amd Dr. Jeffrey Chess --between $25 and $50 per test to sign off on the bogus exams.

    An undercover officer was once recruited to take the tests, according to authorities. The officer received less than an hour of tests without a doctor present. Records, however, showed the officer had been billed for 18 tests that would have taken more than 12 hours to complete.

    Authorities said that after receiving payments for the tests, the defendants laundered the money through a series of offshore shell companies that were then transferred onto some of the defendants.

    “Let’s be clear: these people spent your tax money,” said Gonzalez.

    Authorities said the ringleader of the scheme, Kristina Mirbabayeva, used the ill-gotten gains to buy a $3.25 million penthouse in downtown Brooklyn; another conspirator bought a $2.8 million apartment in Brighton Beach. They also used the proceeds to buy lavish luxury goods and stashed money in more than 100 bank accounts.

    Attorney information for the suspects named in the case wasn't immediately available.  

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