Culture Shock or Shocking Fraud?

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The United States is far from alone in having government benefits programs, but immigrants must still navigate different customs and procedures here than in the countries of their previous residences. Inadvertent mistakes happen. So does fraud. An article in The New York Daily News tells the story of a woman who received well over $50,000 in Medicaid benefits despite her family’s financial position, which was well above the poverty line.

To give the benefit of a doubt, sometimes immigrants sign up to receive benefits, but they don’t always understand the requirements for qualification. (In order to qualify for Medicaid government benefits, the recipient must meet a certain income level.) The story states that because the woman misrepresented her family’s income for a decade, she set records for the amount of money she stole from the Bronx Medicaid program. During that time, the story also notes that her husband owned two properties in the Bronx and one in Pennsylvania, and operated a family electrical contracting business. She and her husband also shared a joint bank account that contained more than $100,000 when discovered by investigators. (With that much money in the bank, at least she was able to pay restitution.)

While investigators found that this woman’s fraudulent actions set records, advocates argued that it was very likely that she continued receiving Medicaid benefits because of a cultural misunderstanding. (Claiming $85,000 that’s not rightfully yours is quite a misunderstanding in any culture.)The investigation was triggered by the fact that she was not enrolled in any other government benefits program that would normally correspond with the profile she used to apply for Medicaid. (Perhaps this is the silver lining for the government and taxpayers.)

After the woman pleaded guilty to a grand larceny charge and paid back more than $85,000, she was sentenced to five years of probation for her illegal acts. (Evidently, sometimes record-setting crimes do not beget record-setting punishments.)

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Woman guilty of one of the biggest cases of benefits fraud in the Bronx avoids jail after paying back $85k,” written by Ben Kochman and published by The New York Daily News on Oct. 20, 2015.

She bilked the city out of thousands — and paid big.

A Bronx woman who committed one of the borough’s biggest ever case of benefits fraud got off with five years’ probation Tuesday after paying back a hefty chunk of cash.

Parvattie Raghunandan, a Guyanese immigrant who misrepresented her family’s income for a decade — netting thousands in fraudulent Medicaid payments — received the jail-less sentence in Bronx Supreme Court after paying back over $85,000 and pleading guilty to grand larceny.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.