An elderly undercover agent helped the state attorney general blow the lid off $1 million in Medicaid fraud and other misdeeds that landed four employees of a Park Slope adult daycare in cuffs, the state announced on Tuesday.
The Social-Security-age investigator infiltrated Northern Manor Geriatric Center, which shares the building at One Prospect Park West with an assisted living facility that is entangled in a lawsuit over its effort to evict oldsters, and shot a video of employees at the daycare doctoring papers to qualify him for services he was too healthy to need, according to a statement by the attorney general. The investigation ultimately led to the arrest of the business’s program director and three others, including a registered nurse, on charges of fraud, falsifying business records, and operating without proper credentials, the statement said.
“Today’s charges detail yet another example of egregious, despicable abuse of public resources for personal gain, sending the message that criminal behavior will be met with the full force of the law,” said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman in a press release. “Employees of this program will never again be able to steal from taxpayers and deprive vulnerable New Yorkers of the care they deserve.”
At the center of the allegations is a spry, sly spy, described by Schneiderman as “healthy and vibrant,” who checked into the senior center posing as a patient to log the incriminating footage, according to the statement. From his admission to his social worker evaluation, staffers at the center wrote down maladies that a prospective patient, apparently the mole, insisted he didn’t have so they could bill for them, according to court documents. The woman doing an initial evaluation noted that he couldn’t do his own laundry and that he wakes up in the night, despite his insistence that he does his and his daughter’s washing and sleeps like a log, one charging document says. Another worker, acting as a social worker without a license, wrote that he suffers from memory loss despite his claims to the contrary, another indictment says.
The facility’s Long Island-based parent company has agreed to pay $6.5 million to settle a civil suit related to fraudulent filing and chronic understaffing, Schneiderman’s office said. The business operated for a year between July 2010 and June 2011 without a qualified social worker on staff, and during that time there were 63 days when it admitted more patients than legally allowed, the agency said.
The state slapped Gelena Deverman, the program director of Northern Manor, with charges of Medicaid fraud after a lengthy investigation uncovered more than $1 million in false claims that had been paid, according to Schneiderman’s office. But her lawyer said she’s just taking the fall for management.
“What you have here is a woman who didn’t make a single penny off of this alleged fraud, but she’s left holding the bag,” said Jeff Lichtman, Deverman’s attorney. “Her only failing was that she wasn’t trained properly, or was negligent at worst.”
Deverman pleaded not guilty on Tuesday in Albany and was released on her own recognizance, Lichtman said. She faces a maximum of 25 years in prison.
The other three suspects were arraigned in a Brooklyn court on Tuesday on felony charges of falsifying business records and unauthorized practice of a profession, which pose a maximum of four years in prison for each.
One of those on the docket was Liliya Kostyuk, a resident of Sheepshead Bay and a member of Community Board 15, who prosecutors charged acted as a social worker without a license. News of the bust shocked the head of the community board.
“I’m speechless,” said Theresa Scavo, chairwoman of Community Board 15.
Scavo said any decision about Kostyuk’s continued tenure on the board is up to Borough President Adams’s office, which handles community board appointments.
Kostyuk’s lawyer said she didn’t do it.
“Liliya Kostyuk is innocent,” attorney Albert Dayan said. “In my opinion she is caught in a tug-of-war between other parties.”
Dayan declined to elaborate.
Northern Manor remained open on Tuesday, and a woman who identified herself as a manager said she had no knowledge of any plan for the facility to shut down and that “if I did, I couldn’t tell you.”
She declined to comment on the arrests, the civil settlement, or the number of patients Northern Manor serves.