Parents Left Son to Die for Profit, B’klyn Prosecutors Say
JAY STREET – A disabled son who won millions for his medical expenses was instead left in an institution by his parents who tried to collect the money after he died, Brooklyn prosecutors allege.
Today, Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes and New York City Human Resources Administration Commissioner (HRA) Robert Doar announced the indictment of two parents charged, after their disabled son died, with draining more than $1 million from a trust created to supplement his medical care but which, after his death, was supposed to be used to reimburse HRA for his medical expenses.
Both defendants were arrested Friday, April 13, attempting to make a withdrawal on the trust within minutes of a scheduled transfer from an annuity to the trust account.
“Instead of spending their son’s money to improve his short and difficult life, these defendants placed him in state-run hospitals and waited till he died, to spend his money on themselves,” said District Attorney Hynes.
“HRA is responsible for ensuring that Supplemental Needs Trusts are used for what they are intended for, and we take that very seriously,” said HRA Commissioner Robert Doar. “In this case, not one penny was spent for the disabled child during his lifetime, but his parents stole all the funds from the trust for their own benefit after his death. HRA’s duty is also to make sure any funds remaining after death are returned to the Medicaid program as required by law so they can be used to help other vulnerable New Yorkers in need. Brooklyn District Attorney Hynes and his team have been key allies in the prosecution of those who commit Medicaid fraud and today I want to thank him once again for that commitment.”
The top charge against Edwin Sanango, 39, and Marlene Romero, 37, is grand larceny in the first degree, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Their son, Eddie, was born in 1993. He was left permanently disabled, as the result of negligent medical care during the delivery. Sanango and Romero, on behalf of Eddie and themselves, won a $2 million judgment against the hospital, $150,000 of which was paid out to them immediately.
The rest of the money was placed in an annuity, with regular payments deposited into a Supplemental Needs Trust, created to cover Eddie’s living expenses and still allow him to qualify for Medicaid. Sanango and Romero were named joint trustees.
The indictment charges that Sanango and Romero agreed that during Eddie’s life, state Medicaid funds would cover his sizeable health-care expenses, but that when he died, HRA would be reimbursed for those costs from the balance of the trust. Any remainder would be paid to Sanango and Romero.
After spending his entire life institutionalized, Eddie died in March 2008.
The charges allege that the defendants resisted HRA’s repeated attempts to contact them for reimbursement for the more than $1.8 million it spent on Eddie’s treatments. No withdrawals were made on the trust during Eddie’s lifetime, but an investigation revealed that between his death and March 2012, more than $1 million was removed from the account.
Prosecutors allege that Sanango was seen on bank surveillance video withdrawing thousands of dollars in cash, within an hour of annuity payments being deposited in the trust. Both defendants have made personal checks and transfers to themselves from the trust account, since their son’s death, according to the charges.
The investigation also revealed that in November 2008, the defendants paid $275,000, in cash, for a home in Pennsylvania.
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