NEW YORK — A Middletown resident who provides affordable housing and services for the developmentally disabled was charged Wednesday for his role in an alleged $5 million Medicaid fraud scheme.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the indictment and arraignment of Joseph Wright, 52. Prosecutors allege that Wright, as owner of a not-for-profit organization called Assistance By Improv II, Inc. (ABI), located at 953 Southern Blvd. in the Bronx, lured thousands of low-income New Yorkers to ABI with the promise of affordable housing, arranged to have them subjected to unnecessary medical tests and then filed false claims for reimbursement with the New York Medicaid program.
Wright was indicted on felony charges of Insurance Fraud in the Second Degree. He has pleaded not guilty.
“The defendant in this case allegedly took advantage of the hopes and needs of vulnerable New Yorkers to line his own pockets with millions of dollars in taxpayer funds,” Schneiderman said. “This elaborate scheme resulted in an alleged theft of over $5 million of Medicaid funds that should have been used to help medical patients in need.”
Prosecutors allege Wright operated ABI as a medical mill that masquerades as a charitable housing organization. ABI claims to be dedicated to providing affordable housing for developmental disabled New Yorkers. Prosecutors allege Wright ignored ABI’s professed charitable mission and duped potential clients, most of whom were Medicaid recipients, into surrendering their personal health care information and undergoing purported medical screening to qualify for housing.
Prosecutors allege potential clients were directed to see various doctors and counselors at ABI, and were often subjected to unnecessary medical tests and procedures. Thereafter, staff at ABI, under the direction of Wright, and at the behest of various doctors and counselors employed by ABI, submitted false claims for reimbursement to Medicaid for services allegedly rendered to the Medicaid recipients who provided Wright, his staff and ABI with their client identification numbers.
Wright, prosecutors allege, used the doctors’ and patients’ Medicaid identification numbers to submit a staggering volume of claims for services purportedly rendered to Medicaid recipients. In an eight-month span, over 125,000 claims for medical services allegedly rendered to Medicaid recipients were submitted in the names of eight Medicaid providers actually employed by Wright and ABI. The value of these claims totaled in excess of $10 million dollars, for which Medicaid reimbursed these eight doctors over $5 million dollars, and they in turn paid Wright millions of dollars.
Prosecutors allege that an overwhelming number of these claims were for treatment in connection with a primary diagnosis of “counseling and advice on contraception” or “other contraceptive/sex counseling” and bore no resemblance to the purported examinations to which the recipients were subjected,.
To date, the Attorney General’s investigation has uncovered no evidence that any of ABI’s patients ever received any housing despite being subjected to unnecessary medical examinations, medical tests, and multiple visits to ABI.
Wright was charged with Grand Larceny in the First Degree, Health Care Fraud in the First Degree and Insurance Fraud in the Second Degree. Grand Larceny in the First Degree and Health Care Fraud in the First Degree are both class B felonies with a maximum term of incarceration of 8 1/3 to 25 years in State prison. B
The case was adjourned until Nov. 22, 2016. The investigation is ongoing.
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