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Post date: September 25 2007

Operation Home Alone Breaks Up

NEW YORK, NY (September 25, 2007) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced his investigation of the home health care industry broke new ground with the arrests of members of a distribution network for falsified home health aide certifications.

The investigation, dubbed "Operation Home Alone," has thus far uncovered home health aides who possessed bogus certifications, schools that sold certificates without providing adequate training, and a licensed home care agency that knowingly hired unqualified aides. Cuomo called the distribution network model a newly discovered form of fraud in the multibillion dollar industry.

According to prosecutors, Bronx Institute for Career Training and Development, Inc., located on Ogden Ave. in the Bronx, sold falsified home health aide certifications through a network of brokers and distributors, who acted as intermediaries between would-be aides and the school.

"These arrests illustrate the extent of the problems we're fighting to fix," Cuomo said. "Untrained aides are an offense to the patients they are supposed to treat, as well as the taxpayers who pay the bill."

The Bronx Institute was arraigned today, and its manager and 10 others were arraigned September 19 by Justice John Ingram in Kings County Supreme Court on charges of Grand Larceny in the First Degree.

Prosecutors alleged that untrained home health aides used documents issued by Bronx Institute - and furnished by the brokers and distributors - to gain employment with agencies that billed Medicaid over $1 million for their work.

Charged were Bronx Institute's High Managerial Officer Ronald Kehinde, 57, of Woodycrest Ave., Bronx; Donald Booker, 53, of Chauncey St., Brooklyn, NY; Sara Kurayeva, 55, of 83rd Ave., Kew Gardens, NY; Alla Kane, 50, of Harvest Hill Ln., Huntington, NY; Vitaliy Krutoshinskiy, 26, W. 2nd St., Brooklyn, NY; Oxana Khimitch, 41, of Dahill Rd., Brooklyn, NY; Mariyana Nad, 35, of Avenue K, Brooklyn, NY; Milana Nikhman, 49, of Ocean Ave., Brooklyn, NY; Rosana Skobeleva, 39, of Cropsey Ave., Brooklyn, NY; Faina Leybina, 70, of Avenue P, Brooklyn, NY; and Manush Janash, 61, of 62nd Road, Flushing, NY.

Attorney General Cuomo also announced the conviction of another home health aide who operated without proper training or certification. Natalia Hinkes, 37, of East 17th Street, Brooklyn, NY pleaded guilty September 20 in Kings County Supreme Court to Petit Larceny. She is scheduled to be sentenced November 16.

Operation Home Alone has so far brought the convictions of 17 uncertified aides, two registered nurses, the managers of two other schools that provided false certifications, an agency and its two managers that employed the aides and nurses, and a Medicaid recipient complicit in a no-show billing scheme. In those cases, the aides and nurses were found to have been billing for services they did not provide, providing and billing for services despite lack of proper training and certification, and billing more than one agency at a time in order to be paid for as much as 36 hours in one day.

"The problems we have uncovered demand a solution," Attorney General Cuomo said. "The thousands of elderly and infirm New Yorkers who allow home health aides into their homes every day deserve total assurance they are in good hands, and New York taxpayers can't afford to foot the bill for unqualified workers, cheats and scammers."

Last week, Attorney General Cuomo announced a legislative proposal calling for a statewide registry of certified home health aides to be developed and maintained by the New York State Department of Health.

The proposal calls for the following:

  • Name, address, gender and date of birth of certified home health aides.

  • 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.

According to Cuomo, a state-wide registry of certified home health aides would be a first step toward enhancing 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 Legislature will also be holding hearings on the matter in October.

Attorney General Cuomo has also issued subpoenas to nearly 60 of the state's Certified Home Health Agencies that bill Medicaid for care provided by aides and nurses. The aim is to identify cases of fraud, and separate the legitimate operators from the frauds in the multi-tiered home care industry.

Provisions establishing and regulating home health care in New York were set forth in Chapter 895 of the state laws of 1977. The aim was to create a "nursing home without walls," reducing the costs associated with institutionalization and providing patients a greater level of comfort. Every month, more than 80,000 New Yorkers receive some sort of Medicaid-funded home health services. In 2006, Medicaid spent nearly $1.3 billion on home health care. Because there is currently no centralized registry for home health aides, an accurate estimate of their numbers cannot be given.

Attorney General Cuomo urged New Yorkers to report cases of suspected fraud to the AG's Medicaid Fraud Hotline, at 1-866-NYS-FIGHT (697-3444).

The investigation of fraud in the home health care industry, dubbed "Operation: Home Alone," is ongoing, and has so far resulted in charges against 48 defendants. The case is being prosecuted by Richard Harrow, Director of the New York City Regional Office of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, assisted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Kiran Heer and Mark Cannon, under the supervision of Special Deputy Attorney General Heidi Wendel. The investigation was conducted by Special Investigators Leonard D'Alessandro, Robert Edwards and Natalie Sotnikova. Auditing was conducted by Supervising Special Auditor Investigators Thomasina Smith and Paul Erhardt, Senior Special Auditor Investigator Lisa Close, Associate Special Auditor Investigator Cristina Truta, and Special Auditor Investigator Shoma Gurcharan.