Manhattan Medicaid & Welfare Fraud Ring Gets a Dose of Law Enforcement: “Operation Free Ride” Nets 19 Individuals for $350,000 Medicaid Theft

If there is any easy way to make a buck off the health care system, someone is going to make a go for it even if their final prescription calls for an enormous dose of law enforcement. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office just announced the arrest and indictment of 19 individuals (Linda Lai, Stephen Lai, Ibrahim Akdemir, Neil Akdemir, Jing Yao Wang, Zhao Ming, Kin Wai Kong, Wai Wen Mak, Steven Colucci, Sonia Mirizzi, Giulio Minella, Orsola Minella, Diana Downing, Brian Bomeiser, Gurbachan Dhami, Balijinder Kaur, Farhad Lahijani, Natakya Azarova and Eufrocina Caluag) for fraudulently obtaining medicaid benefits in the amount of $350,000. These individuals are charged with Welfare Fraud, Grand Larceny and Offering a False Instrument for Filing. 11 of the defendants allegedly misrepresented on paperwork that they were New Yorkers residing in Manhattan while 8 of the defendants allegedly misrepresented their income and financial resources. Without these misrepresentations, the defendants would not have been entitled to Medicaid.

Although the charges and degrees vary for each defendant, Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree is a class C felony punishable by up to 5 to 15 years in state prison, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree is a class D felony punishable by up to 2 and 1/3 to 7 years in prison and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree is a class E felony punishable by up to 1 and 1/3 to 4 years in state prison.

What happens to each of these defendants remains to be seen. Can they pay back what they allegedly stole? Was there a time where at least part of their claims were legitimate? Did they fill out all the paperwork or did someone do it for them? As I have said time and time again, these defendants need to identify their defense and implement it immediately.

Crotty Saland PC is a Manhattan based white collar criminal defense firm representing clients in the New York region. Founded by former prosecutors, the two partners at Crotty Saland PC served under Robert Morgenthau for nearly a combined 14 years.

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