BROOKLYN (CN) – Doctors raked in $7 million by plying the homeless and destitute with promises of free shoes if they filed bogus insurance claims, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson slapped 23 people, including nine doctors, with a 199-count indictment claiming they lured people from low-income neighborhoods, homeless shelters and welfare offices to file the bogus claims through unnecessary tests.
“The many poor people who were allegedly targeted at homeless shelters, welfare offices and soup kitchens and referred to as ‘guinea pigs’ by the defendants were exploited for hours, if not days, just because they needed a pair of shoes,” Thompson said. “That so many doctors allegedly participated in this elaborate scheme to defraud a health care system designed to help the poor is truly disgraceful.”
The nine accused doctors were arrested. Several were arraigned Tuesday before Kings County Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a host of charges, including enterprise corruption, money laundering, fraud and other offenses.
The district attorney said Eric Vainer was the mastermind of the scheme, and that his mother was “second in command.”
All will return to court in May. They face up to 25 years if convicted.
Thompson said the investigation began in July 2012 based on a tip from a Brooklyn woman, who said she met with a podiatrist and was given a knee brace and sneakers though she didn’t need the knee brace.
The district attorney says that between October 2012 and September 2014, 23 people from eight companies “engaged in a criminal enterprise” by submitting bogus claims to Medicaid and Medicare.
The defendants approached people on the street, outside homeless shelters and welfare offices, promising free sneakers if they would flash their Medicaid card to get their feet examined in several boroughs, including Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, prosecutors said.
“The clinic would then provide the client with footwear and additional medical equipment such as an ankle brace or orthotic insole, for which it could then bill the insurers,” according to the district attorney. “It is alleged that these devices were medically unnecessary.”
Then the patients were encouraged to go for a battery of unnecessary tests, Thompson says. To top it off, the providers gave kickbacks to Vainer and his mom, who own T.W. Capital, dba West 5th Medical Supply, according to the DA.
Defendant podiatrists include Benny Ogorek at Vainer’s Bronx clinic, Avia Jackson and Simeon Isaacs at Vainer’s Williamsburg clinics, and Nemaan Ghuman at the East Tremont Avenue clinic.
They allegedly saw patients and then “fabricated symptoms and created false diagnoses.”
Also charged are vascular surgeon David Glass and cardiologist Joseph Grossman, who, according to the DA, “either billed Medicaid and other insurance carriers for medical services never performed or for reviewing medically unnecessary vein and artery ultrasounds performed by technicians.”
Attorneys with the Eastern District of New York got warrants to seize 13 bank accounts associated with the alleged scam.
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