Cuomo Announces Heidi Wendel To Be Chief Of The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (mfcu)

NEW YORK, NY (April 16, 2007) – Today Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced Heidi Wendel will begin as the new Deputy Attorney General for Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU). Wendel previously served as Health Care fraud coordinator at the United States’ Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York where she supervised large scale health care fraud investigations.

At the Southern District, Ms. Wendel recently concluded the successful fraud cases against Cabrini Medical Center, Harlem Hospital, and Beth Israel Medical Center. In the Cabrini case, settled in March 2007, the federal government recovered $3.4 million from the hospital for allegedly kicking back money to an alcohol and drug treatment consulting firm that steered referrals to the hospital. The hospital then filed false Medicaid claims for those referrals. In November 2005, Ms. Wendel successfully concluded a nearly $73 million recovery from Beth Israel Medical Center for health care and accounting fraud. Ms. Wendel has long experience prosecuting cases under the federal False Claims Act, as well.

“Heidi Wendel has been a leader in investigating the kind of health care fraud that the Medicaid Fraud Unit is dedicated to stop. Under her leadership, aggressively pursue attempts to scam the system and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit will return stolen funds to New York’s taxpayers,” Cuomo said. “Ms. Wendel also brings great experience pursuing large scale civil recoveries, and using the federal False Claims Act and whistleblower statutes to stop health care fraud and we are grateful that she will bring that experience to New York State.” Cuomo continued.

“Medicaid fraud is costing the State hundreds of millions and corrupting its health care system. I am looking forward to spearheading an expansion of significant recoveries from fraudsters while at the same time protecting patients from abuse and neglect,” Wendel said.

Wendel previously worked as an Associate at Arnold & Porter from 2000--2003, as well as at Jones, Day, Reavis, & Pogue in their litigation group. Ms. Wendel earned her J.D from Columbia University law School in 1991, where she was Senior Editor of the Law Review. She also earned an M. Phil in Economics in 1992 and an M.A. in Economics from Columbia in 1987. She earned a B.A. in Economics, Phi Beta Kappa from Swarthmore College in 1986. She clerked for Judge Milton Pollack of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Cuomo also released the Executive Summary of the report to his Transition committee on Medicaid Fraud Control, submitted by Kings County DA Charles Hynes, who was also the first Special State Prosecutor for investigating Medicaid fraud. In January, Cuomo asked Hynes to conduct a review of the Unit’s legal, enforcement and investigative functions and to suggest any technological changes or legislative initiatives to further enhance the unit’s capacity to prosecute fraud and recover stolen funds. Hynes report recommends the following steps for the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit:

  1. The relationship between the Attorney General and the Director of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit should be clearly defined with respect to the Unit’s investigative priorities, the management of its caseload, and its staffing.
  2. The funding for the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit should be increased, as well as the Unit’s focus on civil recoveries.
  3. Protocols between the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Office of Medicaid Inspector General should be established.
  4. Interagency relationships should be established.
  5. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit should expand its investigations of large providers that account for a substantial portion of the Medicaid budget.
  6. A request of the federal Department of Health and Human Services to allow the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit to randomly “data mine” provider data should be made.
  7. Investigations of private proprietary homes for adult should be increased.
  8. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit should expand the use of electronic surveillance and other law enforcement techniques.

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