Scam leader Kristina Mirbabayeva [left], her husband Alexander Kopenkin and her mother Irina Fedorova were indicted for their roles in a $146 million health care scam based in New York and New Jersey
Several New York City area doctors are among 20 people and more than a dozen corporations facing charges in a massive health care fraud scheme that allegedly scammed Medicaid, Medicare and other publicly funded insurance providers of millions of dollars.
The suspects include a couple living in a penthouse suite and four doctors, including an NYPD surgeon, were indicted on Tuesday for preying on vulnerable Brooklyn residents to defraud the health care system and line their pockets with millions.
The couple, Kristina Mirbabayeva, her husband Alexander Kopenkin and her mother Irina Fedorova teamed up with doctors like Dr. Robert Vaccarino, a doctor employed part-time by the NYPD, at medical clinics in Canarsie, Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant to fraudulently bill Medicaid and Medicare for phantom tests performed on patients.
Other doctors indicted in the sham-tests scam include Drs. Hamid Alam, 49, and Jeffrey Chess, 53, of New York, as well as, 53-year-old Kevin Custis of Belle Meade, New Jersey
The 878-count indictment announced Tuesday by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office covers three years of alleged fraud, described as a sophisticated operation that targeted low-income areas — including a soup kitchen in the East New York section of Brooklyn and a job center in the Bushwick section — it involved office staff, recruiters, managers, billers and money launderers.
The operators paid people, [Medicaid or Medicare card holders], cash of $30 to $40 in exchange for going to a clinic for unnecessary tests, prosecutors said.
Dr. Robert Vaccarino [photo], a part-time NYPD surgeon, is one of four doctors who participated in the scam
Mirbabayeva, 35, and over a dozen others including Dr. Robert Vaccarino, a doctor employed part-time by the NYPD, shared over $146 million in stolen funds from January 2015 through this November, prosecutors said.
“This is a black eye to the health care profession,” said Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez who announced the 878-count indictment at a press conference Tuesday. “These individuals preyed on the vulnerable, and for what, more Chanel bags?”
Prosecutors received a tip about the scam and sent an undercover investigator.
“The undercover spent an hour at the office and the health care provider was billed for 18 separate tests that should have taken 12 hours,” Gonzalez said.
Doctors would then analyze the test and were paid up to $50 for each.
Vaccarino, 61, at one point had a backlog of 8,000 tests to read and over time pocketed $1,378,210, according to Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Gibson.
The alleged ring leader was 35-year-old Kristina Mirbabayeva, of Bridge Street in downtown Brooklyn. Dr. Custis is accused of being her business partner.
Ring leader Kristina Mirbabayeva, [left], and her business partner Dr.Kevin Custis
Court documents allege that those involved in the scheme laundered money through bank account of shell companies, including ones in China, Singapore, Lithuania, Pakistan, Taiwan, and Turkey. The money was then transferred to some of the people charged in the scheme.
Other doctors indicted include Robert Vaccarino [left], Jeffrey Chess [center], and Hamid Alam [right]
Prosecutors froze 130 bank accounts around the world and are attempting to get the money back to taxpayers through restitution payments. Gonzalez said millions have already been returned.
All the defendants were variously charged with enterprise corruption, grand larceny and other charges. If convicted, they face up to 25 years in prison.