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  • Justice Department Reminds the Public to be Aware of Fraud When Disaster Strikes and Report It

    U.S. Department of Justice Reminds the Public to be Aware of Fraud When Disaster Strikes and Report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud



    National Center For Disaster Fraud Partners With National Association of Attorneys General to Combat Disaster-Related Fraud



    (August 29, 2018) - - The Department of Justice established the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when billions of dollars in federal disaster relief poured into the Gulf Coast region, which opened opportunities for criminals to exploit people during vulnerable times. The NCDF, a national coordinating agency within the Department’s Criminal Division, operates a call center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and serves as a centralized clearinghouse for disaster fraud complaints and information relating to both natural and man-made disasters. The NCDF seeks to improve and further the detection, prevention, investigation, and prosecution of fraud related to natural and man-made disasters, and to advocate for victims of such fraud. More than 20 federal, state, and local agencies participate in the NCDF, which allows them to forward on complaints to the appropriate agency for investigation.

    “Committing fraud against natural disaster victims is an inexcusable crime,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “We are now in hurricane season, and it is important for people to be on the lookout for fraudsters who seek to profit from natural disasters through identity theft schemes and solicitations for fake charities. The Department of Justice is committed to detecting this type of fraud, and we will aggressively prosecute the offenders. Through our National Center for Disaster Fraud, and in conjunction with our law enforcement partners, we are working to keep Americans from becoming victims of these schemes.”

    The recent Carr Fire in California, though largely contained, has caused severe damage; the Pacific Hurricane Season has already proven to be quite active, as demonstrated by Hurricane Lane’s destructive landfall in Hawaii; and we are already 90 days into the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Unfortunately, and inevitably, natural and man-made disasters will continue to occur across our great nation. These terrible and often tragic events leave many people without food, water, or shelter, and often cause devastating damage to life and property. Nevertheless, there are criminals ready to take advantage of victims before, during, and especially after a natural disaster. They are looking to strike those at their most vulnerable time.

    While compassion, assistance, and solidarity are generally prevalent in the aftermath of natural disasters, unscrupulous individuals and organizations also use these tragic events to take advantage of those in need. Examples of illegal activity being reported to the NCDF and law enforcement include:
    • Impersonation of federal law enforcement officials;
    • Identity theft;
    • Fraudulent submission of claims to insurance companies and the federal government;
    • Fraudulent activity related to solicitations for donations and charitable giving;
    • Fraudulent activity related to individuals and organizations promising high investment returns from profits from recovery and cleanup efforts;
    • Price gouging;
    • Contractor Fraud;
    • Debris removal fraud;
    • Theft, looting, and other violent crime
    Numerous U.S. Attorney Offices in districts impacted by recent hurricanes have established task forces comprised of local, state and federal agencies in their respective areas to combat disaster fraud.

    In ongoing efforts to strengthen partnerships and better inform the American people of its mission, the NCDF has joined with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who was recently installed as the President of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), in an effort to spread the message of the NCDF to more of our partners nationwide. We at the NCDF are collaborating with Attorney General Landry and the NAAG to inform every state Attorney General of the mission and function of the NCDF as part of Attorney General Landry’s presidential initiative on disaster fraud.

    “The NCDF has an excellent staff of investigators, analysts, call center operators, and managers who are well prepared to handle the anticipated volume of complaints during hurricane season and help ensure that each report of fraud reaches the appropriate investigative agency,” said U.S. Attorney Brandon J. Fremin for the Middle District of Louisiana, who is also the NCDF’s Executive Director. “Our collaboration with the National Association of Attorneys General and Attorney General Landry is yet another example of our efforts to better serve the American people before, during and after a natural disaster. Raising public awareness by spreading the message of the NCDF through the state Attorneys General is a great way for the NCDF to reach thousands of people who may one day be subjected to fraudulent schemes.”

    “As President of the National Association of Attorneys General, my goal is to use the next 18 months to gather as much intel as possible so we may better prepare state and federal leaders for future crises,” said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. “We are fortunate to have the NCDF right here in Louisiana and it has served as a great resource to our citizens through hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters. I am proud to team up with U.S. Attorney Fremin and the great men and women at the NCDF as we continue to look for ways to move our Louisiana and other states forward in terms of emergency preparedness and management.”

    Members of the public are reminded to apply a critical eye and do their due diligence before trusting anyone purporting to be working on behalf of disaster victims and before giving contributions to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of disaster victims as well as being extremely cautious before providing personal identifying or financial information to anyone, especially those who may contact you after a natural disaster. Solicitations can originate from e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings and telephone calls, and similar methods. Members of the public who suspect fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, or believe they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at (866) 720-5721. The telephone line is staffed by live operators 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also fax information to the Center at (225) 334-4707, or email it to disaster@leo.gov . Learn more about the NCDF at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud and watch a public service announcement here. Tips for the public on how to avoid being victimized of fraud are at https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/tips-...bution-schemes .



    Courtesy: U.S. Department of Justice
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  • Three Individuals Plead Guilty in $55 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme at Two Brooklyn Medical Clinics

    Three Individuals Plead Guilty in $55 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme at Two Brooklyn Medical Clinics





    January 30, 2017


    New York, NY - - (January 27, 2017) - - Three individuals pleaded guilty this week in connection with a health care fraud scheme involving two Brooklyn, New York clinics that caused approximately $55 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid.

    Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers of the Eastern District of New York, Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) New York Regional Office, Acting Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Enstrom of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) New York Office and Medicaid Inspector General Dennis Rosen of New York State Office of Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG), made the announcement.

    Olga Proskurovsky, 49, and Yuriy Omelchenko, 49, both of Brooklyn, New York, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Pursuant to their plea agreements, the defendants agreed to forfeiture money judgments in the amount of $17,216,687. Isak Aharanov, 42, of Brooklyn, New York, also pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. The defendants pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf of the Eastern District of New York.

    According to the defendants’ admissions made as part of the plea agreements, Proskurovsky served as a medical biller and Omelchenko worked as a therapist manager at Prime Care on the Bay LLC (Prime Care) and Bensonhurst Mega Medical Care P.C. (Bensonhurst). The defendants admitted that they assisted in a scheme to defraud the Medicare and Medicaid programs in which patients subjected themselves to medically unnecessary health services, including physical and occupational therapy, provided by unlicensed staff. To conceal the scheme, Proskurovsky and Omelchenko admitted that occupational and physical therapists falsified patient charts and medical billing documents.

    As part of his plea agreement, Aharanov admitted that he and co-conspirators paid patients in order to induce them to come to Prime Care, Bensonhurst and Total Rehab and Physical Therapy P.C. Aharanov further admitted that he used a bank account opened in the name of one of his companies to launder funds and generate the cash needed to make these illegal kickback payments.

    Fifteen other individuals have pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme.

    HHS-OIG, IRS-CI and the New York State OMIG investigated the case, which was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Trial Attorneys A. Brendan Stewart and Richard A. Powers of the Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney F. Turner Buford of the Eastern District of New York, formerly a Fraud Section trial attorney, prosecuted the case.

    The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 3,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $11 billion. In addition, HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.



    Information source: U.S. Department of Justice...
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  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Announces Fraud Charges, Asset Freeze in Alleged Nursing Home Investment Scheme

    U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Announces Fraud Charges, Asset Freeze in Alleged Nursing Home Investment Scheme




    January 24, 2017


    Washington D.C. - - (January 23, 2017) - - The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced fraud charges and an emergency asset freeze obtained against a businessman in South Carolina accused of siphoning funds he raised from investors for the purpose of purchasing or renovating senior housing facilities.

    The SEC alleges that Dwayne Edwards improperly commingled money from several different municipal bond offerings and the revenues of the facilities underlying the offerings. The offerings were each supposed to finance a particular assisted living or memory care facility in Georgia or Alabama. From the commingled funds, Edwards allegedly diverted investor money for personal use as well as to finance other unrelated bond offerings.

    “As alleged in our complaint, investors thought they were investing in a single senior housing project while their money was actually being used to fund an ever-expanding web of affiliated facilities and the personal expenses of Edwards and his friends and family,” said Andrew M. Calamari, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.

    The SEC’s complaint, filed January 20 in federal district court in Newark, N.J., also charges Edwards’s former business partner Todd Barker, who agreed to a bifurcated settlement with monetary sanctions to be determined at a later date.

    The court issued an order at the SEC’s request freezing the assets of Edwards and certain relief defendants. The court also appointed a temporary receiver over the facilities.

    The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, is being conducted by Lee A. Greenwood, David H. Tutor, Kerri L. Palen, and Sandeep Satwalekar. The case is being supervised by Lara S. Mehraban, and the litigation is being handled by Mr. Greenwood, Mr. Tutor, Neal Jacobson, and Alexander Vasilescu.


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    Information source: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission...
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