Archive for the tag 'fraud'

One Prospect Park West sits at the entrance to Prospect Park (Photo by Mary Bakija)

A Medicaid fraud bust at a Park Slope adult day care center resulted in the arrest today of residents of Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach and Sea Gate, one of whom is a member of Sheepshead Bay’s Community Board 15.

The three local defendants worked at Northern Manor Adult Day Health Care Program at One Prospect Park West. They are accused of falsifying medical records to bilk the Medicaid program out of more than $1 million. The center’s operators are also accused of hiring unqualified individuals to provide services.

The bust followed a long-term investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which has been probing adult day health care centers for potential abuses.

The attorney general’s office set up covert stings, sending healthy, vibrant seniors to the facility as undercover informants for the attorney general. They say their secret cameras recorded Larisa Rumynik, 48, of Brighton Beach, and Valentina Shapran, 51, of Sea Gate, falsifying medical admission forms to ensure the healthy patients would qualify for the programs.

The third local defendant, Liliya Kostyuk, 58, of Sheepshead Bay, is accused of providing social work services and psychological assessments that she was not qualified to perform, the attorney general’s office said.

Kostyuk is also a member of Community Board 15, a government body comprised of 50 unpaid community members appointed at the request of City Council members. The Boards are responsible for advising city and state agencies on planning decisions. According to Chairperson Theresa Scavo, Kostyuk has been on the Board for at least six years and is an appointee of former Councilman Michael Nelson. She did not hold any leadership posts on the Board.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” said Scavo on hearing the news of Kostyuk’s arrest. “Liliya? I’m speechless. she’s always seemed so quiet. I guess you can never judge.”

Each of the three defendants face up to four years in state prison if found guilty. The program’s director, Gelena Deverman, 35, of New Jersey, was charged with grand larceny for causing Medicaid to pay more than $1 million in phony claims. She faces 25 years in prison.

Northern Manor’s parent company, Northern Manor Multicare Center based in Nanuet, New York, in a separate civil settlement, admitted that it operated without a qualified social worker from mid-2010 to 2011. They also confessed to routinely admitting more registrants than it was certified to take.

The parent company agreed to pay a $6.5 million civil settlement in the case and to shut down the Brooklyn center.

“Today’s charges detail yet another example of egregious, despicable abuse of public resources for personal gain, sending the message that criminal behavior will be met with the full force of the law,” said Schneiderman in a press release. “Employees of this program will never again be able to steal from taxpayers and deprive vulnerable New Yorkers of the care they deserve.”

Adult day cares are surging in popularity across New York, seen as a less costly alternative to nursing homes. Such facilities are licensed by the state to provide medical and psychosocial care to seniors who are unable to care for themselves, and are paid approximately 65 percent of the rate paid to a nursing home that provides room and board.

However, the lack of oversight has seen a spike in fraud, with some centers offering gifts, kickbacks and incentives for recruiting potential Medicaid recipients.

Both the state legislature and City Council have sought reforms to limit abuse.

Law office of the phony Shlomo Dickerman (Source: Google Maps)

Law office of the phony Shlomo Dickerman (Source: Google Maps)

Authorities are still unsure of the true identity of the man they claim stole a lawyer’s name and set up a phony law firm in Brighton Beach, but they believe he’s a disbarred lawyer with a criminal history.

The man who went by Shlomo Dickerman, or Stephen G. Dickerman, is believed to actually be Steven H. Dickman, a Long Island lawyer who lost his license and was convicted of grand larceny, according to the Daily News.

The unknown man was arraigned on charges of identity theft and making fraudulent statements on Thursday. He was denied bail after the judge agreed that his identity was too uncertain to cut loose.

The New York Times reports:

The confusion over the defendant’s identity continued at a mind-bending arraignment Thursday, where the defendant continued to insist he was Stephen G. Dickerman. Not even the man’s fiancée, a retired public-school teacher, was certain of his true identity, a prosecutor, Lan Nguyen, said.

… At the arraignment, the judge read the charges against the defendant, saying his first and last name were unknown. Jan A. Rostal, a lawyer for the defendant, then spoke up. “I can clarify that the name of my client is Stephen G. Dickerman,” she said.

Ms. Nguyen, the prosecutor, pointed out that when the defendant was arrested, he had a New York State driver’s license in the name of Steven H. Dickman. That man, she said, “appears to be a disbarred attorney with a criminal history”: two convictions on grand larceny charges, of which one resulted in a three-year prison sentence.

“The government has really no idea who the defendant is at this point,” Ms. Nguyen said, adding that she was awaiting the results of a fingerprint analysis to see if the man was indeed Steven Dickman.

Ms. Rostal said the birth date her client had given to court officers, June 1942, did not match the one on the Steven Dickman driver’s license, February 1945.

The alleged fraudster obtained his phony identity by renewing the real Stephen G. Dickerman’s expired attorney registration, altering his address. The real Dickerman appears to have retired after 40 years, and Shlomo used his registration to represent clients he booked in his Brighton 11th Street office.

Apparently, he did a good enough job to fool other lawyers into thinking he was the real deal, even if not entirely capable.

“He did not appear, necessarily, to be a good lawyer; he didn’t appear to be a nonlawyer,” David S. Stone of Stone & Magnanini, who dealt with Shlomo last year, told the Times.

Correction (12:34 p.m): The suspected identity of the alleged fraudster is Steven H. Dickman, not Steven H. Dickerman as a previous version of this article erroneously stated. It has been corrected.

Law office of the phony Shlomo Dickerman (Source: Google Maps)

Law office of the phony Shlomo Dickerman (Source: Google Maps)

Authorities cuffed a man who they say stole a lawyer’s identity, set up a phony law firm in Brighton Beach, and represented clients in at least 11 court cases.

According to FBI investigators, a man claiming to be “Shlomo G. Dickerman” solicited clients through his 128 Brighton 11th Street office for approximately four years, despite that the would-be lawyer held no license to practice law or any law degree.

The accused, whose actual identity is still unknown to investigators according to the arrest affadavit, obtained the credentials of an actual lawyer named Stephen G. Dickerman.

The real Dickerman had allowed his New York attorney registration, which must be renewed every two years, to expire in 2008.

The following year, a man claiming to be Dickerman showed up at the registration office in Manhattan asking to renew the registration. He was shown a copy of the delinquent notice sent to the real Dickerman – which shared his name, birth date, address, Social Security number, the law school he attended and other private information.

Using a section of the form to update the information, the phony Dickerman changed his first name to Shlomo, claiming it was his Hebrew name, and entered a new home and business address. After paying a $350 registration fee, he went on his way as a registered attorney, and continued to renew the registration every two years.

The con artist then went on to represent clients, including a pair of undercover agents who recorded a meeting with him as recently as July 29. The phony Dickerman asked the pair for a $10,000 retainer, in addition to his $400-an-hour fee, before generously knocking it down to just $5,000.

They also recorded a court appearance on July 15, in which the accused man claimed to be the lawyer whose identity he duped.

FBI agents raided the office earlier this week, seizing computers, files and other documents belonging to the so-called Dickerman. The other lawyers at the same office are not suspected of wrongdoing and appear to be unaffiliated with the accused man, except for having rented space to him.

clothing-bins

Clothing donation bins are nothing new to the area, although the handful of organizations behind them place them with varying degrees of legality.

One company in particular appears to have thrown caution to the wind, with several placements around Southern Brooklyn that are blatantly illegal. These bins may not be placed on public property, as it is in the photo above, but we’ve seen these pink boxes from Narciso Recycling Company doing just that from here to Bensonhurst.

And it’s not just us. The Manhattan Beach Community Group took notice, too, sending the following note to their members:

In case you haven’t noticed there are a growing number of pink clothing boxes being place in and around Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay and elsewhere. These boxes are illegal, the owners, we are told, take the clothing and sell it!

The Department of Sanitation will remove the boxes. All you have to do is call 311 and report the location of a box you see.

MBCG President Judy Baron told Sheepshead Bites that the bins have been spotted on Shore Boulevard, at a construction site near Girard Street. The one above is on Ocean Avenue and Shore Parkway.

The New York Times looked into these bins earlier this month and found that they were not only illegal, but have become a burden to taxpayers.

A growing number of companies — many of them based in New Jersey — are illegally placing used-clothing bins throughout New York City, blocking sidewalks and serving as magnets for litter and graffiti. The receptacles typically have signs that indicate donated goods will go to the poor or, in some cases, to legitimate charities. But, city officials said, the needy do not benefit from much of what is collected. Instead, the clothing is often sold in thrift stores or in bulk overseas, with the proceeds going to for-profit entities that can be impossible to trace, or even to contact.

“They have become the bane of our existence,” Kathryn Garcia, the city’s sanitation commissioner, said. “We have seen a significant uptick in the number of clothing bins placed illegally on public sidewalks. A dramatic increase.”

City law bans such bins from being placed on sidewalks and streets; they are legal on private property with the consent of the owner.

We do want to note that not all companies place their bins illegally. As the excerpt above notes, if it’s placed on private property, it’s okay – although it’s up to donors to determine if their clothing will go to a good cause.

City Councilman Vincent Gentile introduced legislation earlier this month that could expedite their removal, and see the companies fined for placing it on public land.

Rabbi Yaakov Weingarten

Yaakov Weingarten (Source: vosizneias.com)

A Brooklyn Supreme Court judge ordered Midwood Rabbi Yaakov Weingarten and his wife, Rivka, to pay more than $520,000 for setting up phony not-for-profit organizations claiming to benefit Israel and then using the donations as their personal piggy bank.

The Weingartens were busted last summer, accused of operating a call center out of 1493 Coney Island Avenue in Midwood to raise millions of dollars through 19 separate charities. The scammers claimed the funds would go to programs in Israel or to religious activities. But prosecutors say the charities never existed, and the funds instead went to Weingarten and his family.

Weingarten, 53, withdrew more than $2 million from the charity bank accounts between 2007 and 2013, prosecutors said. They used the funds to pay for mortgages on their two homes, remodeiling expenses, personal vehicles, video rentals, dental visits and even a trip to Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. They attempted to hide their shenanigans by transferring funds between the non-profit accounts. It appears the setup was too difficult for even the Weingartens to keep track of; they bounced more than 2,100 checks, resulting in more than $65,000 in donations being wasted on bank overdraft fees.

On Wednesday, the judge ordered the Weingartens to forfeit $522,315 as part of a civil judgement. Approximately $360,000 of those funds will go to two Israeli charitable organizations that carry out actual programs similar to the ones Weingarten claimed during his phony fundraising pitches to donors: the Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel, the preeminent pediatric hospital in Israel, and United Hatzalah of Israel, a leading Israeli volunteer emergency medical services organization.

Weingarten previously pleaded guilty to felony tax fraud, allowing him to escape time behind bars. However, he and his associates, Simon Weiss and David Yifat, are barred from any fundraising or charitable activites in the state of New York. He also faces five years probation, and has already paid $90,685 in restitution as part of the criminal charges.

The judge ordered the dissolution of 11 actual non-profits used by Weingarten, as well as eight that existed in name only. They are as follows:

  • Hatzalah Rescue of Israel, Inc.;
  • Shearim, Inc.;
  • Bnei Torah, Inc.;
  • Chesed L’Yisrael V’Chasdei Yosef, Inc.;
  • Yad L’Shabbat, Inc.;
  • Hatzalah Shomron, Inc.;
  • Pulse Foundation, Inc.;
  • Agudath Chesed Bikur Cholim Israel, Inc.;
  • Kupat Reb Meir Baal Haness Bnei Torah Eretz Yisrael, Inc.;
  • Congregation Yad L’Shabbat, Inc.;
  • Shearim Hayad L’Torah Center for Hatzalah L’Shabbat and Chesed L’Yisrael, Inc.;
  • Israel Emergency Center;
  • Magen Israel;
  • Hayad Victim Assistance Fund;
  • Lmaan Hatorah;
  • Our Children;
  • Zaka Israel;
  • Yaldel Simcha Yisrael;
  • Yad Yisrael.

“We are committed to fighting to protect everyday New Yorkers, particularly those who want to use some of their hard-earned money to support charitable causes, because there has to be one set of rules for everyone,” Attorney General Schneiderman said via press release. “My office will use all the tools at our disposal to protect New Yorkers from unscrupulous fundraisers for sham charities.”

grimm2Congressman Michael Grimm, facing a 20-count indictment on tax evasion, fraud and illegal hiring practices, may now head to trial in October, a month before elections.

SILive reports:

Speaking at a status conference in Brooklyn federal court on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Gatta said that motion procedures and hearings in the case could be held by the end of September, with a trial to begin the following month.

… Gatta said that the discovery in the case is “not particularly voluminous” and that the case itself “is fairly straightforward.”

Grimm’s new attorney, Daniel Rashbaum, said that that “schedule may be OK. I don’t know yet.”

He sought a three- or four-week delay so that he could look at the evidence. By then, Rashbaum said, he’d have a better idea “what the discovery looks like in my mind.”

But U.S. District Court Judge Pamela K. Chen said she would give Rashbaum, who notified the court last week that he was taking over the defense, two weeks to “dive into the material.”

Prior to the conference yesterday, observers believed Grimm would not go to trial until after the November 4 elections, when he faces off against Democrat Domenic Recchia. If the prosecution’s request for an October court date is granted, it would be a significant blow to the pol, who will have to fight simultaneously for his seat and his freedom.

What a perfect photo for this article. (Source: Pedro Vezini/Flickr)

A recent report is raising questions about several local doctors who rank among the nation’s highest earners for Medicare claims, with many of them seeing the same patients thousands of times in just a few short months.

The doctors – occupational therapists, chiropractors and physical therapists – have been walking a quasi-legal line, sharing patients through a network in which they are seen, and billed, multiple times on the same day. One chiropractor and an occupational therapist had overlapping patients that were seen on the same day more than 11,000 times in 18 months, according to USA Today.

While referring patients to other doctors is common, a high frequency could indicated what experts call “churning” – cross-referring within a known network for financial gain and not medical need, and possibly for a kickback. The local network is also unusual because chiropractors, physical therapists and occupational therapists usually compete with one another, and would be unlikely to send referrals.

After reviewing Medicare data nationwide, USA Today found Southern Brooklyn docs stood out for their high referral rates. Here’s how they detailed the network:

The USA TODAY analysis found that six practitioners in Brooklyn all regularly saw the same patients, often treating each person dozens of times. Medicare paid the six a total of nearly $15 million in 2012, the only calendar year that payment data is publicly available. Additional practitioners also fed into and benefited from the referral network, but at smaller rates than the top half-dozen.

For example, physical therapist Wael Bakry and occupational therapist Victor Genkin, both part of the network, are the first and second biggest recipients of Medicare money in 2012 in their respective fields.

Medicare paid Bakry about $4.1 million for performing more than 184,000 procedures on 1,959 patients. Genkin brought in more than $2.3 million from seeing fewer than 1,200 patients.

According to Medicare’s data, over 18 months the two shared more than 700 clients, who saw both regularly — as many as 25 times each.

The top earning chiropractor in the nation, Brooklyn’s Alexander Khavash, was also a top referrer to Bakry and Genkin. According to the Medicare data, Bakry and Khavash shared more than 1,200 patients between them.

Often, but not always, the physical therapist and chiropractor saw patients back-to-back. One group of patients made a total of more than 17,000 visits to both doctors on the same day — an average of 13 times per patient — over an 18 month span.

The patients also regularly cycled through internist Abraham Demoz, who has used the same address as Genkin and Bakry. For example, Khavash saw 2,060 patients in 2012, according to the Medicare payment records. Demoz shared almost 1,800 of them with him over 18 months, the data show. Demoz and Genkin had about the same amount of patient overlap.

Mayura Kanekar is another Brooklyn provider who is part of the same circle.

Kanekar brought in nearly $3 million as the top Medicare-earning occupational therapist in the country in 2012. Occupational therapists work on people’s fine motor skills so they can perform daily tasks. Over the 18 months covered by Medicare’s referral data, a group of about 800 patients routinely visited both her and Khavash on the same day — seeing the two specialists back-to-back a total of 11,621 times.

None of the federal law enforcement officials USA TODAY interviewed would comment about whether any of the individuals are under investigation.

Some of those docs have also come up in other recent reports for their unusually high billing.

The USA Today report is lengthy and detailed – and a worthwhile read. Their reporters go to find the doctors at their listed medical offices, only to find abandoned storefronts or residential buildings. The look into the causes for the high rate of Medicare claims, and also address investigators’ challenges in finding and prosecuting such cases. Check it out, then feel sad.

ezpass

The MTA is warning E-ZPass users of a new e-mail phishing scam that has surfaced, in which digital con artists attempt to get at your private data by warning of phony unpaid tolls.

Phishing scams attempt to dupe users to send the scammer sensitive information, including usernames, passwords or banking information by masquerading as a trustworthy entity.

Scam artists are sending out official looking e-mails carrying the E-ZPass logo, often from an e-mail account that appears to be connected to the service. A screenshot of the e-mail is shown above, stating that the user has not paid for driving on a toll road and that previous invoices have not been responded to. It provides a link to download the invoice.

In reality, the E-ZPass Service Center does not send out e-mail invoices for payments. All bills are sent through the United States Postal Service. The e-mails are not authorized by E-ZPass, MTA Bridges and Tunnels or any other toll agency associated with the service.

The agency is advising customers not to open or respond such e-mail, and instead send them straight to the trash bin. If you think you may have a legitimate e-mail from E-ZPass and want confirmation before opening it, you can call the E-ZPass New York Customer Service Center at (800) 333-8655.

Source: DVIDSHUB/Flickr

The American Red Cross is coming under fire for refusing to disclose how it spent more than $300 million in funds raised for Superstorm Sandy relief, claiming that the information is a “trade secret.”

Investigative news outlet ProPublica has been fighting to get the independent relief organization to reveal how it spent donated funds on Sandy between the storm and February 2014, but the organization refuses to give a breakdown.

But the organization did fork over information to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is investigating this and other charities – so ProPublica filed a public records request with his office to see what was handed over.

The site reports what happened next:

That’s where the law firm Gibson Dunn comes in.

An attorney from the firm’s New York office appealed to the attorney general to block disclosure of some of the Sandy information, citing the state Freedom of Information Law’s trade secret exemption.

The documents include “internal and proprietary methodology and procedures for fundraising, confidential information about its internal operations, and confidential financial information,” wrote Gabrielle Levin of Gibson Dunn in a letter to the attorney general’s office.

If those details were disclosed, “the American Red Cross would suffer competitive harm because its competitors would be able to mimic the American Red Cross’s business model for an increased competitive advantage,” Levin wrote.

The letter doesn’t specify who the Red Cross’ “competitors” are.

The Red Cross is a public charity and occupies a unique place responding to disasters alongside the federal government.

Some of the organization’s redaction requests were trivial: lines that simple read “American Red Cross,” or sections of letter stating they were willing to meet with the attorney general.

Those requests were denied by Schneiderman’s office, but others included information that the attorney general agreed was “proprietary and constitutes trade secrets,” such as “business strategies, internal operational procedures and decisions, and the internal deliberations and decision-making processes that affect fundraising and the allocation of donations.”

ProPublica has not yet received the documents from the attorney general, but the outlet says it will report on them when they do.

UPDATE (6:00 p.m.): Councilmember Mark Treyger, chairman of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, asked us to tack this on to the article, following the introduction (with Councilmember Ulrich) of a bill to create a monitor to oversee Sandy relief funding to prevent fraud.

“Citizens who donate to disaster relief efforts, including in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, have a right to know that their money is being used to help victims recover and rebuild. With so much funding at stake, and residents still in need of so much assistance, I remain concerned about the potential for misuse of relief funds, including by government agencies, contractors and private organizations. That’s why I worked with my colleague Council Member Eric Ulrich to introduce legislation this week establishing an independent monitor to investigate instances of waste, fraud and abuse in order to maximize the amount of aid delivered to impacted neighborhoods across New York City. To be clear, I am not accusing the Red Cross of any improper activity, but rather am reiterating the need for openness and transparency as the recovery effort moves forward.”

grimm2Congressman Michael Grimm, already in hot water over criminal charges that he evaded taxes and illegally employed undocumented immigrants, may have violated the internal ethics rules of the House of Representatives when he threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony in January.

The New York Times reports:

A one-page report by the office, a quasi-independent investigative body that serves almost like a grand jury, was released on Wednesday by the House Ethics Committee, the panel of lawmakers with the exclusive power to punish colleagues for ethical infractions.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, in a preliminary review, unanimously concluded in March that there was “substantial reason to believe that Representative Grimm threatened a reporter with bodily harm and engaged in a threatening or menacing act that created a fear of immediate injury,” which would violate local law in the District of Columbia as well as House ethics rules.

Grimm made headlines the night of the State of the Union when he was caught on camera threatening NY1 reporter Michael Scotto. He told the reporter he would “break him like a boy” and throw him off the balcony of the Capitol rotunda.

Scotto was interviewing him about a federal investigation into the congressman’s campaign fundraising that later led to criminal indictments of several Grimm associates. Grimm himself has so far escaped charges on that matter, but was slapped with a 20-count indictment alleging financial and employment improprieties in connection to a restaurant he operated before entering Congress.

The House panel will not investigate further at this time, setting it aside at the request of federal prosecutors.

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