Authorities in Brooklyn arrested nine therapists for allegedly swindling over $3 million from a program meant to help developmentally disabled children.
The New York State Early Intervention Program (EIP) is ostensibly designed to provide developmentally delayed children with necessary services, including physical and speech therapy.
Between 2015 and 2019, however, the nine defendants allegedly submitted fake documents showing thousands of EIP therapy sessions that never took place, according to federal authorities.
“The defendants exploited disabled infants and toddlers, the youngest and most vulnerable among us, to enrich themselves by millions of dollars,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace in a statement.
Their allegedly fake sessions netted the defendants around $3.3 million, which is partially paid for through the federal Medicaid program — making their alleged fraud both horrid as well as a federal crime.
“Defrauding government programs produces a ripple effect that trickles down to taxpayers who foot the bill for fraud schemes,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll said in a statement.
Making the scheme even more appalling, the EIP provides a fixed amount of money to New York’s patients — therefore the defendants allegedly deprived over 200 developmentally disabled children from receiving the therapy sessions they desperately need, according to the Department of Investigations.
“The defendants not only stole money from the system itself, they also prevented children with EIPs from accessing the amount of care they were authorized to receive,” Driscoll continued. “When systems designed to help our most vulnerable are manipulated in this way, rest assured federal charges will be applied.”
The defendants became so brazen with their alleged fraud that they often billed the EIP program for providing therapy sessions every single day for long periods of time, including on holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, according to prosecutors. The accused therapists would also claim that sessions took place in the middle of the night, or on days when they were not even in New York.
One Brooklyn therapist, Mercedes Falcon, allegedly claimed payment for 6,100 sessions when he wasn’t even actually in Brooklyn, according to prosecutors, who cited Falcon’s phone records as evidence in their indictment.
The nine defendants — Falcon, Marsiste Adolphe, Margaret Dominique-McLain, Tracy Gibson, Roselee Johnson, Jeannette Monclova, Manuel Moore, Kikelomo Ogundiran, and Dino Paolicelli — face a maximum of 10 years behind bars, prosecutors say.
“This criminal case exemplifies the broad and damaging impact of corruption. These nine defendants not only stole more than $3.3 million in public funds but also robbed more than 200 New York City children of essential Early Intervention services they were entitled to receive,” said DOI Commissioner Margret Garnett.