NEW YORK (CBS) ―It’s the largest Medicare fraud bust ever. Nearly 100 people are accused of raking in $251 million.
The suspects are doctors and nurses across several states.
The government said three of the faces of fraud elderly Russian immigrants Shelya Pinskaya, Yefim Drakhler and Evgeny Gil. They emerged from their arraignment in Brooklyn federal court on Friday afternoon.
More than 360 federal agents raided locations in New York, as well as Miami, Detroit, Houston and Baton Rouge, La., arresting dozens in alleged scams costing the Medicare system more than a quarter of a billion dollars.
“Here in Brooklyn the 22 people charged bilked the government of more than $70 million,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.
And that angered people outside one of the clinics involved.
“It’s bad because we gotta pay for it. The taxpayers,” Bensonhurst resident Mike Hazleton said.
“It’s coming from our pocket if it’s an abuse of Medicare,” patient Galina Adelman said.
One of the schemes allegedly took place at 8686 Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst. According to the indictment, defendants set up a kickback room within the medical offices where they allegedly paid patients to receive unnecessary medical services — everything from physical therapy to MRIs and other diagnostic tests. In some cases the services were never rendered yet still billed.
The so-called “kickback room” even had an apparent Soviet-era poster with the words “ne boltai” — Russian for “don’t gossip” — to reinforce the need for secrecy.
But many caught up in the scheme were relatively small fish, allegedly paid just hundreds of dollars each to falsify hundreds of thousands each in claims that involved even doctors and members of organized crime.
“To the extent that these defendants thought smaller claims would evade detection. Those days are gone,” said Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, New York.
Detection was made easier by a court-ordered camera and microphone the feds planted in the kickback room, reportedly recording the illegal payments.
The arrests were made by the joint Department of Justice and Health and Human Services Medicare Fraud Strike Force.
Cleaning up an estimated $60 billion to $90 billion a year in Medicare fraud will be key to paying for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
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