Taken on a Ride

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Medicaid covers eligible beneficiaries who need a ride to a doctor’s appointment, hospital or other medical office. (Obviously, the destination must be an approved provider and drivers are only supposed to transport patients to the medical appointment then back home, with no unnecessary stops in between.) Rides can be provided by taxi, car, van, public bus, or via subway and shared with others. Two out of 13 taxi and transport company owners from Albany, New York charged in a multi-million-dollar scheme to take the state’s Medicaid and Workers’ Compensation programs on a ride, recently pleaded guilty to Medicaid fraud and workers compensation fraud.

All the transportation companies involved in the scam provided medical transport services to eligible Medicaid beneficiaries throughout the eastern Adirondack and Capital regions. Over a period of two years, state, federal and local law enforcement carried out a very complex investigation that culminated in the arrests of 13 defendants.

Allegations against the purported perpetrators include:

  • Submitting bills to Medicaid for trips that did not occur.
  • Bribing Medicaid beneficiaries with kickbacks if specific transportation companies were used. (Further research reveals that due to a cut-throat cab culture, some drivers took advantage of recovering addicts by bribing them. Supposedly, in one case, a bag of tobacco bribe netted the taxi cab driver $231.26 from the state Department of Health.)
  • Failing to provide transportation company employees with the state-required workers’ compensation insurance. (This disqualifies the transportation company from being able to transport Medicaid beneficiaries.)
  • Filing false documents certifying that the operators carried the state-required workers’ compensation coverage to provide Medicaid transport services.

One of the transportation company operators admitted to conspiring to commit healthcare fraud and to pay kickbacks. The 54-year-old owner’s plea agreement is contingent upon him pleading guilty again at a future date. He is also required to pay $550,000 to the New York State Department of Health and must appear back in court to face his sentencing. (He could get up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.)

The 24-year-old cab company owner in today’s article also pleaded guilty, but to petty larceny and the workers’ compensation crime of failure to secure compensation. (He didn’t meet the state mandate to provide workers’ compensation insurance for his drivers.) The young fraudster is expected to pay $17,600 in restitution when he heads back to court for his sentencing. (While some of the patient passengers have been identified as accomplices, none of them have been charged.)

Non-emergency medical transportation is helpful to those individuals who don’t have a working vehicle or driver’s license. It’s also beneficial to someone who has a physical or mental disability or is unable to travel or wait for a ride alone. The guilty pleas entered by the two men from Albany, New York are huge victories for prosecutors as the taxi companies involved in this conspiracy involving Medicaid fraud and workers compensation fraud reportedly “plagued the Northway corridor for years.” Congratulations to all the law enforcement officials involved. (Way to keep these criminals from driving off with benefits that were intended for vulnerable citizens who truly need them.)

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Plattsburgh man admits guilt to Medicaid, Workers Comp fraud,” published by Press-Republican on February 12, 2019.  

ALBANY — Two taxi and transport company owners pleaded guilty Tuesday for their parts in multi-million dollar Medicaid and Workers Compensation frauds involving nearly a dozen companies in the Adirondack and Capital regions.

Arshad Nazir, 54, of Plattsburgh and Muhammad N. Jahangir, 24, of Queensbury were among 13 taxi and transport company owners and operators arrested last May on state and federal charges alleging millions of dollars in thefts and frauds against Medicaid and the Workers Compensation system.

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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.