Massive health care scheme preys on vulnerable Brooklynites
Brooklyn District Attorney-elect Eric Gonzalez announced the takedown of a nearly $150 million health care fraud scheme on Tuesday, accusing 20 people, including doctors and an NYPD surgeon, of preying on vulnerable Brooklynites to scam public programs.
“These defendants allegedly stole millions of dollars from insurance dollars. That money eventually comes out of your pockets and my pockets,” Gonzalez said in front of a table showcasing piles of cash, expensive handbags and jewelry the defendants bought.
A city, state and federal investigation showed that between Jan. 1, 2015 and Nov. 30, 2017, under the alleged leadership of Kristina Mirbabayeva, 35, the scheme brought in about $146 million of tax payer money. All the while, the alleged ringleader boasted her vacations and expensive purchases on social media.
The group is variously charged with enterprise corruption, scheme to defraud, money laundering and health care fraud among other charges in the 878-count indictment.
Recruiters allegedly offered persons $30 or $40 to produce a Medicaid or Medicare card and agree to be examined at a clinic in either Bedford-Stuyvesant, Sheepshead Bay, Canarsie, Gravesend or Crown Heights. As defendants allegedly took to low-income neighborhoods to rake in patients, one instance brought them to a soup kitchen in East New York and another to a Bushwick job center.
Recruiters were paid from about $30 to $50 a patient.
Once in the office, doctors allegedly gave unnecessary exams for $25 to $50 a test, which ended up with one doctor falling behind on 15,000 tests to sign off on.
During one visit, an undercover officer spent less than an hour in a clinic and Mirbabayeva’s companies billed for 18 separate tests that would have taken more than 12 hours to complete.
The money obtained from the scam was then laundered through shell companies throughout the world while Mirbabayeva allegedly went on spending sprees.
In addition to expensive jewelry and handbags, she went on vacations and bought a $3.25 million Downtown Brooklyn apartment. Another associate bought a $2.8 million apartment in Brighton Beach.
NYPD Surgeon Robert Vaccarino, 61, allegedly operated as a doctor reading off tests in the scheme.
All 20 persons face 25 years to life in prison if convicted and forfeiture has already begun of the $146 million and 11 properties obtained while 100 used bank accounts were frozen.
When asked by reporters how Mirbabayeva reacted when she was arrested in her penthouse, Gonzalez responded, “I understand she was not happy.”
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