Following a major cooperative investigation involving the federal Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the New York City Department of Investigations, sixteen people were arrested on Wednesday and charged with conspiring to defraud the government by buying, selling, or renewing Medicaid identification cards.
By selling the cards for up to $400, the 8 employees of the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) and their 8 co-conspirators permitted ineligible or phantom residents to secure medical and prescription drug benefits that bilked the government out of some $3.9 million in 2004 alone.
The 8 Ã¢â‚¬Å“recruitersÃ¢â‚¬Â would find the ineligible people and collect $300 to $400 in cash. They would then give the HRA workers about $100 to have the Medicaid card issued without an application to the agency.
The HRA employees include: 3 supervisors, Iliana Albelo-Johnson, 46, Ã‚Â a Ms. Dorr, 44, and Steven Vinson, 39; 4 eligibility specialists, Kelly Hooper, 30, Laverne Mays, 48, Mr. Miles, 43, and Chrisone Robertson, 35; and a temporary employee, Carl Smith, 41.
The so-called Ã¢â‚¬Å“recruitersÃ¢â‚¬Â include Imad Alaouie, 43; Ibrahim Bazzi, 29; Robert Fares, 29; Adam Farhat, 33; Mamadou Gacko, 34; Feuzi Karabay, 42; Ahmed Noor, 37; and Miguel Paredes, 34.
The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Roslynn R. Mauskopf, stated that 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.” Her office will be prosecuting the case.
The investigation came about as the result of a Ã¢â‚¬Å“tipÃ¢â‚¬Â from a man who had been arrested in connection with an unrelated credit card fraud case. Using the informant, an undercover postal inspector, and a court-ordered cell-phone tap, the government was able to infiltrate the ring and gather incriminating evidence including several bogus Medicaid identification cards.
If convicted of the charges against them, each of the 16 ring members could go to jail for up to 20 years and be fined $250,000.