A.G. Schneiderman Recovers $2.5 Million In Nursing Home Medicaid Kickback Scheme
Individual Defendant Died Before Trial; Estate To Return Millions
Schneiderman: Taxpayer Money Meant To Protect The Elderly Will Be Recouped For The Elderly
NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with the estate of a late Bronx nursing home owner who was previously indicted on charges of paying thousands of dollars in kickbacks to a hospital social worker to steer patients to Kingsbridge Heights Rehabilitation and Care Center, Inc. The agreement with the estate of Helen Sieger returns more than $2.5 million to the New York State Medicaid program.
"Our state’s Medicaid system is a critical resource for all New Yorkers, and in particular for our most vulnerable elderly citizens,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “My office is determined to protect taxpayer money from criminal schemes, and there are few programs as sacred as the Medicaid system that provides for our senior citizens. Those who steal from the elderly deserve to be prosecuted and the stolen funds fully restored.”
Under the settlement, the estate of Helen Sieger, who controlled the Kingsbridge Heights center, has returned $2,502,963.74 to the Medicaid program.The agreement closes a criminal kickback and grand larceny case lodged against Sieger in 2009. Seiger, who jumped bail and fled New York after she was indicted but was later located and returned to New York by investigators from the Attorney General’s office in August 2010, died in April 2011.
The 2009 indictment charged that Sieger and Kingsbridge engaged in an illegal kickback scheme with Frank Rivera, a former social work assistant at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, to refer patients to the home. Sieger and Kingsbridge were indicted by a Bronx County Grand Jury in 2009. Rivera pled guilty to felony and misdemeanor violations of the anti-kickback provisions of New York’s Social Services Law. His sentencing is pending.
According to the indictment and a related civil forfeiture action filed by the Attorney General’s Office, beginning in 2005 Sieger, Kingsbridge and Rivera entered into a scheme whereby Rivera would steer patients discharged from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital to Kingsbridge in return for cash payments. Sieger paid Rivera $300 dollars for every patient referred and admitted to Kingsbridge, plus a bonus of $1,000 for every ten patients. Rivera received over $19,750 from Sieger. As a result of this scheme, a number of patients were improperly admitted to Kingsbridge and Sieger and Kingsbridge received $1.25 million in payments from the Medicaid program. In addition, the total settlement figure includes damages that will be paid to the state of about $1.3 million.
After she was indicted, Sieger was excluded from participating in the Medicaid Program and the operation of the facility was transferred to a receiver appointed by the state Department of Health.
In January 2010, Sieger fled New York but was tracked down by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Unit to a Miami hotel and returned to New York for trial. The Attorney General’s investigation showed that Sieger, of Borough Park, Brooklyn, had various bank accounts, including about $2 million in a Montana bank account. She remained in jail pending trial until her death, at age 57, from cancer. Upon her death, the indictment against her was abated by operation of law. The outstanding civil forfeiture and fraud action against Sieger was settled with this agreement with her estate.
The kickback investigation was conducted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Betty Rodriguez and Lissette Fernandez,under the supervision of the Chief of the Patient Protection Unit Cassandra Bethel. The forfeiture investigation was conducted by Special Assistant Attorney General Jill Brenner. Investigative support was furnished by the MFCU Patient Protection Investigations Squad, Medical Analyst Catherine Mosher, R.N., Auditor-Investigator Kizzy-Ann Waldropt and Principal Auditor-Investigator Emmanuel Archer. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s Civil Enforcement Division Chief Amy Held, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul J. Mahoney and Deputy Attorney General Monica Hickey-Martin coordinated the investigations, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.