A web of unscrupulous doctors — including an NYPD surgeon — helped operate a $146 million Medicaid/Medicare fraud ring that used the city’s poorest residents, officials said Tuesday.
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez outlined the massive interagency takedown of the ring Tuesday, displaying thousands of dollars in luxury goods purchased with embezzled funds.
In the scheme, recruiters were sent into soup kitchens and job centers in East New York and Bushwick in search of people with Medicaid and Medicare cards, officials said. The cardholders were offered $30 or $40 if they would go to a clinic and undergo a battery of unnecessary tests.
Doctors who referred people for the bogus tests and analyzed the results billed Medicaid and Medicare for their services.
Gonzalez said the complex, illegal operation took place between Jan. 1, 2015, and Nov. 20.
“These defendants allegedly exploited the poorest among us to divert millions of dollars from publicly-funded insurance programs,” said Gonzalez. “Some of the defendants then used the stolen funds to maintain a lavish lifestyle consisting of multimillion dollar homes, expensive handbags and luxury travel.”
The 878-count indictment names 34 defendants, including 14 corporations.
Gonzalez said Kristina Mirbabayeva, 35, who lives in a $3 million penthouse in Downtown Brooklyn, was the leader of the scam along with her business partner, Dr. Kevin Custis of New Jersey. NYPD surgeon Dr. Robert Vaccarino, of Breezy Point, Queens, was also listed in the indictment.
The defendants were arraigned Tuesday in Brooklyn on a series of charges including enterprise corruption, first-degree scheme to defraud, money laundering and grand larceny.
Mirbabayeva’s profile on LinkedIn lists her as executive manager of Comprehensive Medical Diagnostic, with its mission of delivering “the highest quality healthcare in a safe, efficient manner.”
Instead, Gonzalez said she and other defendants set up a series of international shell companies in China, Lithuania, Turkey and other sites to launder the money.
Mirbabayeva reportedly used some of the money to go on “shopping sprees” at pricey shops including Hermes, Tourneau and Bulgari.
Authorities said the “patients” were taken to clinics in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Canarsie and Crown Heights. Recruiters received $30 to $50 for each person they wrangled off the streets.
Gonzalez pointed to one undercover officer who was paid $30 to have a few medical tests at one clinic during a one-hour session. Meanwhile, the companies operated by Mirbabayeva billed insurance for 18 tests.
During the investigation, Dr. Hamid Alam — a Long Island doctor charged in the scheme — was caught in an intercepted phone call saying he had to sign off on 15,000 tests.
Gonzalez said more than 100 bank accounts attached to the defendants have been frozen, and asset forfeiture proceedings have started.
The investigation was conducted by the Brooklyn DA’s office along with the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, city Department of Social Services, state Medicaid Inspector General and state Department of Financial Services.