Attorney General James Announces Conviction of Western New York Optician for Medicaid Fraud

Optician Thomas Foote Fraudulently Billed Medicaid
for Services for Deceased Nursing Home Residents

Foote Pleads Guilty to Grand Larceny; Sentenced to 90 Days in Prison,
5 Years Probation, and Ordered to Pay $74,000 in Restitution

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced the conviction of optician Thomas Foote, 59, of Wyoming County, for defrauding New York state by submitting false Medicaid claims for optician services that he claimed were for nursing home residents, but were never provided. Today’s conviction concludes an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), which found that many of the residents Foote claimed to have provided these services to were actually deceased and that he never actually visited the nursing homes on the dates he submitted claims for. Foote was ultimately arrested and charged with Grand Larceny in October last year.

“New Yorkers have every expectation that doctors and health professionals are providing services in their best interest, but this optician was totally blinded by greed,” said Attorney General James. “Not only did he cheat our state to line his own pockets, he shamelessly used the names of deceased nursing home residents to cover his tracks. Let today’s conviction serve as a warning that fraud will never be tolerated in our state, and we will not hesitate to hold those accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

As outlined in the charges, Foote fraudulently received approximately $74,000 in Medicaid payments between 2016 and 2019 by billing for optician services that were never provided. The OAG’s investigation revealed that many of the patients Foote claimed to have fitted eyeglasses for were actually deceased on the dates he claimed to have serviced them, and that he even continued billing for services multiple times after those dates. Additionally, nursing home visitor logs and records also revealed that Foote never visited the nursing homes on dates he claimed to have provided services to the residents. 

Previously, Foote pled guilty to Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E Felony, before the Honorable Michael M. Mohun in Wyoming County Court. Today, he was sentenced to 90 days in state prison, followed by 5 years probation, and is ordered to pay $74,000 in restitution.  

MFCU’s investigation was led by Detective Jaimie Krzyskoski, with the assistance of Detective Supervisor James Zablonski, under the supervision of MFCU Deputy Chief Commanding Officer William Falk. The underlying financial analysis was completed by Senior Auditor-Investigator Christopher Magin, with the assistance of Buffalo Regional Chief Auditor Mary Henry.

This criminal case was handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Soo-young Chang, with assistance from Buffalo Regional Director Maura O’Donnell. MFCU is led by Director Amy Held and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul J. Mahoney. The Division for Criminal Justice is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado and is overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

Reporting Medicaid Provider Fraud: MFCU defends the public by addressing Medicaid provider fraud and protecting nursing home residents from abuse and neglect. If an individual believes they have information about Medicaid provider fraud or about an incident of abuse or neglect of a nursing home resident, they can file a confidential complaint online on the OAG website or by calling the MFCU hotline at (800) 771-7755. If the situation is an emergency, they should call 911.

MFCU’s total funding for federal fiscal year (FY) 2022 is $59,918,216. Of that total, 75 percent — or $44,938,664 — is awarded under a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The remaining 25 percent of the approved grant — totaling $14,979,552 for FY 2022 — is funded by New York state. Through its recoveries in law enforcement actions, MFCU regularly returns more to the state than it receives in state funding.

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