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Feds: Grimm fund-raiser investigated for ecstasy smuggling

Rep. Michael Grimm’s former fund-raiser who is currently fighting immigration fraud charges was a suspect in a major ecstasy drug investigation, federal officials announced last week.

Federal investigators trying to convince a judge to keep Ofer Biton behind bars as his case wends its way through the courts told a judge at a Brooklyn federal court bail hearing that the one-time aide to Manhattan Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto was a suspect in an ecstacy drug probe in 2002.

During a search warrant of Biton’s home at that time, agents recovered a loaded handgun, as well as several documents bearing Biton’s alias Haim Morziane, said federal prosecutors, claiming that Biton would be a flight risk if he was released.

At the behest of Biton’s attorney John Meringolo, federal authorities admitted that while he was a suspect, he was never arrested in the probe.

Still, Judge Marilyn Go agreed that the extra driver’s licenses federal prosecutors mentioned proved that Biton could be a flight risk in the future and decided to keep him held without bail, although he agreed to revisit the issue at a later date.

Federal authorities are hoping that Biton will rat on Rep. Grimm (R–Bay Ridge), who has been accused of using Biton to collect illegal contributions in his 2010 campaign.

Grimm, who has not been charged with any crime, says he has nothing to do with the charges against Biton. He also claimed Biton never raised any money for him during his 2010 election, even though a scathing New York Times article published earlier this year outlined how the two men allegedly strong-armed Pinto’s followers into contributing to the legislator’s campaign.

“He was not my fund-raiser,” Grimm said, noting that a Congressional Ethics Committee cleared him of the allegations months ago. “Any donations that I received from followers of the Rabbi were respectfully and legally obtained.”

Cropsey Ave fraud ring busted

Nine employees at Cropsey Medical Care on Cropsey Avenue were arrested on Oct. 4 for taking part in an alleged healthcare fraud and money-laundering scheme, federal officials said this week.

The suspects who worked out of the office near 17th Avenue were all charged with trying to defraud Medicare and Medicaid out of more than $13 million by submitting fraudulent claims for physical therapy and other medical services that were not provided or deemed medically unnecessary, according to court records.

The indictment claims that employees at the medical center paid Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries cash kickbacks to induce them to come to Cropsey and receive unnecessary medical services or to stay silent when services not provided were billed to Medicare and Medicaid.

“All of the defendants charged here today allegedly took advantage of programs designed to provide assistance to the most needy, subverting them to their own ends,” said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. “Doctors, chiropractors, and other medical professionals who defraud Medicare and Medicaid are on notice that they will be investigated and prosecuted.”

FBI Acting Assistant Director-in-Charge Mary Galligan agreed.

“The common thread among the three schemes is the blatant exploitation of Medicare and Medicaid programs for the personal enrichment of the defendants,” Galligan said. “These programs are designed to assist the elderly or indigent, not greedy thieves.”

Attempts to reach the suspect’s attorneys were unsuccessful.

Reach reporter Thomas Tracy at ttracy@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2525.

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