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Muslim Illegals Nabbed In Medicaid Scam

Buried in the Real Estate and Autos section of the New York Times:

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U.S. Charges 16 in Medicaid Card Fraud

By SEWELL CHAN
May 3, 2006

Federal authorities arrested 16 people yesterday, including 8 city employees, and charged them with conspiring to defraud the government over more than two years by buying, selling or renewing Medicaid identification cards.

Hundreds of cards were sold for $300 to $400 apiece and then used to secure medical and prescription-drug benefits in a scheme that cost the government $3.9 million in 2004 alone, officials said.

Fraud by health care providers is generally seen as a far costlier Medicaid problem than fraud by recipients. But the charges yesterday were not the first time city employees have been implicated in Medicaid fraud. In November 2003, State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced the arrests of eight people, including three city workers, for conspiring to fraudulently issue up to 500 cards to ineligible New Yorkers.

The charges in the latest case came after an investigation involving two federal agencies — the Postal Inspection Service and the Department of Health and Human Services — as well as the New York City Department of Investigation.

The United States attorney in Brooklyn, Roslynn R. Mauskopf, said the case was a warning "to those who would seek to defraud Medicaid, and especially to city employees who would betray the trust that has been placed in them."

All 16 defendants were arraigned yesterday before Magistrate Judge James Orenstein in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. Several lawyers who were assigned to represent the defendants said their clients would plead not guilty. An assistant United States attorney, Robert M. Radick, is prosecuting the case.

According to two complaints that were unsealed yesterday, the investigation began with a tip from a man who was arrested in Queens on an unrelated credit card fraud case in October 2003. He was not identified in the complaints. The man, who reached a plea agreement in January 2004, told investigators he knew of a scheme to get Medicaid cards.

Between November 2003 and April 2005, the man had a series of phone calls and meetings with Miguel Paredes, alleged by prosecutors to have coordinated many of the transactions, and succeeded in buying six Medicaid cards in exchange for cash. The cards were made out to fictitious buyers whose names, dates of birth and addresses were supplied by the government witness.

According to the complaint, Mr. Paredes told the informant in recorded conversations that "I got a bit of bad news" and that "everything is on hold for a while" after news of the earlier fraud case was publicized.

Soon after, however, Mr. Paredes resumed his role as a middleman, officials said. According to the complaints, the government stopped working with the witness after learning he was "continuing to engage in credit card fraud," and in May 2005, a postal inspector, posing as a friend of the erstwhile witness, began to deal with Mr. Paredes directly.

Officials obtained approval to tap the cellphone of Mr. Paredes in November 2005 and those of two employees of the Human Resources Administration, Donna Dorr and Donald Miles, the next month. According to the complaints, an electronic welfare management system also revealed the identities of employees who were part of the scheme.

Mr. Paredes, Ms. Dorr and Mr. Miles did not respond to messages left on their cellphones yesterday.

The eight city employees, who work for the Human Resources Administration, included three supervisors, Iliana Albelo-Johnson, 46, Ms. Dorr, 44, and Steven Vinson, 39; four eligibility specialists, Kelly Hooper, 30, Laverne Mays, 48, Mr. Miles, 43, and Chrisone Robertson, 35; and a temporary employee, Carl Smith, 41. The other eight defendants were Imad Alaouie, 43; Ibrahim Bazzi, 29; Robert Fares, 29; Adam Farhat, 33; Mamadou Gacko, 34; Feuzi Karabay, 42; Ahmed Noor, 37; and Mr. Paredes, 34.

The city employees, except for Mr. Vinson, are accused of conspiring to illegally issue, sell or renew cards for fraudulent buyers, while the other defendants, including Mr. Vinson, allegedly acted as middlemen, or "recruiters," procuring cards for others or for their own use.

They each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

Given the news of the day, you would think the New York Times would have noted whether these suspects were illegal aliens or not.

(Just kidding.)

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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