By Daniel Massey
A doctor from Forest Hills and a physician who worked in Rego Park pleaded guilty to embellishing the injuries of accident victims as part of a multimillion-dollar auto insurance fraud ring, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Thursday.
They are the first medical doctors convicted of insurance fraud in the state, the DA said.
The doctors admitted their guilt after undercover investigators who posed as victims of car accidents caught them falsifying medical records, Brown said.
Drs. Tseday Bezabeth, 39, of 113-13 76 Rd. in Forest Hills and Eleonora Zharov, 61, of 71-33 Perri Lane in Brooklyn pleaded guilty to insurance fraud before State Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter, who sentenced them to three years of conditional discharge, Brown said. The penalty is similar to probation.
The defendants have betrayed the integrity of the medical profession, Brown said. Insurance fraud is a crime that affects us all, mainly by increasing the auto insurance rates for honest drivers.
Fraud costs the insurance industry more than $23 billion nationwide each year, most of which is passed on to customers, Brown said.
Zharovs corporation, Prompt Medical, P.C., located at 63-118 Woodhaven Blvd. in Rego Park, also pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and was fined $2,500.
Bezabeth and Zharov could be fined, suspended or have their licenses revoked when they appear at disciplinary hearings before the state Department of Healths Office of Professional Medical Conduct.
Brown said the two doctors were the first to be successfully prosecuted for insurance fraud in New York state.
The two doctors were among 112 people arrested Dec. 5 as part of Operation Whiplash for allegedly taking part in what the DA called one of the largest no-fault automobile insurance rings ever uncovered in New York.
NYPD Administrative Aide Belinda Lovander, 30, of Jamaica, was one of 11 people who have pleaded guilty thus far to felony charges ranging from enterprise corruption to insurance fraud. Five people are serving jail terms, including Lovander, who pleaded guilty in January to enterprise corruption for creating 22 fake accident reports as part of the scheme.
According to the DA, a runner recruited individuals to pose as automobile accident victims and supplied their personal information to Lovander, who then created phony NYPD accident reports. Lawyers created false injury claims and then doctors, like Bezabeth and Zharov, treated the bogus injuries, Brown said.
The DA contends the scheme racked up more than $900,000 in fraudulent medical bills and $3 million in potential liability from false insurance clams.
An additional 68 people charged in separate criminal complaints also have pleaded guilty. Their cases are pending.
Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2002 Community News Group
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