A.G. Schneiderman Announces Sentencing In Fulton County Home Health Aide Scam
JOHNSTOWN – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the sentencing of a Medicaid recipient who colluded with her own home health aides and stole money from the Medicaid program.
Deborah Kontomichalos, 51, a Fulton County resident from Johnstown, was sentenced today before the Honorable Richard C. Giardina in Fulton County Court. She was sentenced to 45 days in jail followed by five years probation and was ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution. Kontomichalos had previously pled guilty in December 2010 to Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a Class E felony. She was originally charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a Class D felony, Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, and Attempted Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, both Class E felonies.
“In many Medicaid fraud matters, the patient is a victim, along with the State, of the greed of some people in the healthcare industry who put their financial interest ahead of their professional duties,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “This case illustrates another side of the picture where some of the people who are helped by the Medicaid program also exploit it, leading to higher costs and fewer benefits for everyone. My office is committed to recovering every tax dollar stolen as a result of Medicaid fraud and other kinds of theft from the people of this state. In this time of fiscal crisis, we can't afford to waste a single penny.”
Ms. Kontomichalos is on disability from injuries suffered in 2002 in Nassau County after her car was hit by a public bus. From January 2005 through June 2009, she participated in the Consumer Directed Personal Assistant Program, a program funded by Medicaid dollars. In order to receive assistance from home care aides, the program required that Kontomichalos report the hours worked by her caregivers to an intermediary for Medicaid, the Resource Center for Independent Living (RCIL), which then paid the aides.
The Attorney General's investigation found that Kontomichalos filed false time sheets for her aides, inflating the hours they worked. Kontomichalos and the aides then split the additional money from the inflated hours.
The Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) continues to aggressively fight fraud in the home health care industry. Medicaid-reimbursed home health care involves a myriad of services, programs, and employment arrangements involving skilled nurses, home health aides, and personal care aides. Due to state initiatives designed to improve care and reduce costs through care at home instead of in institutions, the number of Medicaid patients receiving home health care has grown significantly. Every month, more than 150,000 New Yorkers receive some form of Medicaid-funded home health services. In 2010, Medicaid spent nearly $4.3 billion on home health care throughout the state. Because these services are provided outside an institution and therefore are difficult to supervise, home health care is particularly prone to fraud.
This particular case is part of the Attorney General's ongoing investigations into home health services. It was investigated and prosecuted by MFCU’s Albany Regional Office, including Investigators Richard Ellison and Julie Clancy, and Auditors Susan Hill and Spring Thornton; the sentencing proceeding was handled by newly-appointed MFCU Albany Regional Director, Special Assistant Attorney General Kathleen Boland.