Attorney General Cuomo Announces Indictment Of Home Health Agency And Owner For Knowingly Employing Untrained Home Health Aides
NEW YORK, N.Y. (May 1, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that his “Operation Home Alone” investigation of the home health industry has led to the indictment of a home health agency that knowingly hired untrained aides to care for patients.
B&H Health Care Services, Inc., known as Nursing Personnel Home Care, a Licensed Home Care Service Agency had more than 1,000 home health aides on payroll who had received little or no required training. Yet, they were sent daily into the homes of New York’s elderly, frail and indigent to provide sensitive medical care. As a result, the indictment alleges these aides caused Medicaid to be billed at least $30 million for services they were not qualified to provide.
Walter Greenfeld, a part owner and high managerial agent of Nursing Personnel, was also indicted for his role in the scheme. The indictment, which was unsealed today, charges Greenfeld and the agency with Grand Larceny in the First Degree (a Class B felony) and three counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (a Class E felony). The Grand Larceny charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 year and a maximum sentence of 25 years' imprisonment, and each False Filing charge carries a maximum sentence of 4 years' imprisonment. At the arraignment, Kings County Supreme Court Judge Guy J. Mangano, Jr. adjourned both cases to June 4, 2008.
“Home health aides are the professionals that we trust to provide critical care for the ones we love,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Companies in this industry have a moral and legal obligation to ensure that their employees are qualified to provide this care and not use it as a vehicle for personal profit off the taxpayers.”
Attorney General Cuomo has also filed a civil suit against Nursing Personnel, Greenfeld and 16 other shareholders of the corporation to recover the more than $30 million that was stolen. The civil suit also seeks treble damages of $90 million against the criminal defendants. During the time of the alleged criminal conduct, the shareholders – including principal shareholder Isaac Schwartz – collectively received payments to themselves or entities they controlled of over $7 million.
Medicaid requires home health aides – who primarily care for elderly patients, administer medication, and provide services such as catheter care, colostomy care and wound care – to successfully complete a training program licensed by the Department of Health or the State Education Department. All such aides must receive a minimum of 75 hours of training, including sixteen hours of supervised practical training conducted by a registered nurse.
According to the charges, Nursing Personnel and Greenfeld knew that many of the aides for whom they billed Medicaid had not received this training and were therefore not eligible for payment.
In addition to the indictment of Greenfeld and Nursing Personnel, the Attorney General’s investigation uncovered that Nursing Personnel used coordinators to secure home health aides and facilitate their hiring, often by allegedly arranging for the aides to receive certifications from corrupt training schools without the requisite training. Two coordinators were arraigned recently on Grand Larceny in the First Degree charges and other offenses.
Attorney General Cuomo’s “Operation Home Alone” has exposed a statewide range of fraudulent practices and schemes in the home health care industry by home health and personal care aides, the schools that train them, and the agencies that recruit and employ them. The crimes and frauds include the sale and distribution of falsified certifications, aides working without proper training or certification, no-show aides who split their payments with complicit patients, aides who bill multiple agencies for a total of up to 36 hours in one day, and nurses and certified home health agencies that bill Medicaid for services never provided.
To date, the investigation has resulted in the conviction of aides operating with false credentials, schools that sell the false credentials, and licensed agencies that employ these unqualified aides. Other prosecutions are pending.
Along with the rigorous enforcement of current laws through initiatives like “Operation Home Alone,” Attorney General Cuomo has also called for a statewide registry of certified home health aides to be developed and maintained by the state Department of Health. The registry would enhance the State’s ability to oversee the industry, provide potential employers with the ability to screen home health aides, and help to detect and deter fraud. A registry already exists for nurse aides that work in nursing homes. By creating a registry for home health aides, this bill would extend the same protections that exist in the nursing homes to care-dependent persons being cared for in their homes.
The proposal calls for the following information to be included in the registry:
- Name, address, gender and date of birth.
- Name and date of state-approved training and competency evaluation program successfully completed.
- A copy of the training certificate issued to the individual.
- The aide’s employment history in home care and health care.
New Yorkers are urged to report cases of suspected fraud to the Attorney General’s toll-free Medicaid Fraud Hotline, at 1-866-NYS-FIGHT (697-3444).
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The Nursing Personnel/Greenfeld case is being prosecuted by Richard Harrow, Director of the New York City Regional Office of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), and Special Assistant Attorney General Samuel Yee, assisted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Kiran Heer and Mark Cannon. The civil action is being litigated by Special Assistant Attorney General Randall Fox of the MFCU's Civil Enforcement Division. Auditing was conducted by Assistant Chief Auditor of the New York City Regional Office Richard Porto, Principal Special Auditor Investigator Paul Erhardt, Supervising Special Auditor Investigator Thomasina Smith, Associate Special Auditors Cristina Truta and Anthony Spaventa, and Special Auditor Investigator Lisandra Defex. Investigative work was conducted by Senior Special Investigators Michael Casado and Frederick Rondina, Special Investigators Natalie Sotnikova, Lenny D'Allesandro, and Robert Edwards. Electronic data analysis was conducted by Carolyn Pollard, Deputy Director of the MFCU's Electronic Investigative Support Group, and by Confidential Systems Analyst Pedro Villegas.
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