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Flushing health workers bilk Medicare for $11.7M: Feds

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This was some real dirty dancing.

Staff at two Flushing medical centers were indicted for Medicare fraud last week after offering dance classes and spa treatments to elderly residents but billing Uncle Sam for physical therapy, according to federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.

“Today, 12 individuals — including three medical doctors and other licensed health professionals — were charged with participating in sophisticated Medicare fraud and money laundering schemes throughout Brooklyn and Queens,” Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer in the Eastern District said in a Nov. 2 statement.

Half of the 12 worked at the URI Medical Center and Sarang Medical PC in Flushing, while the others netted in the bust operated out of Brooklyn.

Together, the medical centers allegedly bilked the federal government out of $11.7 million in false claims, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The majority of the defendants, who included three doctors and a chiropractor, live in two Queens neighborhoods: Ho Yon Kim, 85, and Hoi Yat Kam, 57, both reside in Flushing and Elaine Kim, 50, and Gilbert Kim, 59, both live in Bayside. Peter Lu, 36, is listed as only residing in New York City and John Knox, 54, is from the Bronx, Justice said.

The suspects would lure Medicare recipients by offering free lunch and dancing classes in exchange for their Medicare numbers, Justice said.

The clinics would then bill unnecessary treatments to those numbers that were never carried out, according to the Justice Department.

Similarly, the clinics would offer “a variety of spa services” like facials and massages and would then bill Medicare for physical therapy treatments that would also never be administered, according to prosecutors.

And then they would attempt to conceal the origin of the ill-gotten cash from the federal government.

“Money laundering is a critical part of large-scale health care fraud schemes and often the most difficult piece to unravel,” Breuer said.

A lawmaker who represents Flushing said the incident was shocking and if the problem is widespread, federal investigators should stop until crooked clinics are eradicated.

“This is the first time we’ve heard something of this magnitude in Flushing,” a spokesman for City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) said. “If this is a pervasive problem and needs to be addressed, the councilman is glad the fed has stepped in and closed these places down, and he hopes that their investigation continues.”

The operations in Flushing were just part of a $95 million fraud bust by the Justice Department, FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 12:00 am, November 10, 2011
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