Therapists Allegedly Took Millions From Program That Helped Kids With Developmental Delays

Nine therapists in New York have been arrested and charged with stealing millions of dollars from a state health program that aims to help very young children who have developmental delays, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

The therapists stole over $3 million from the New York State Early Intervention Program over more than four years, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The EIP provides developmental services to newborn children and toddlers, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, special instruction and social work services.

The therapists collectively swindled more than $993,000 from Medicaid, and more than $1,998,000 from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), between January 1, 2015, and June 30, 2019, a criminal complaint unsealed in a Brooklyn federal court alleges.

During that period, the therapists allegedly submitted fraudulent documents for thousands of EIP therapy sessions that never took place in order to get millions of dollars as payment. Some of the therapists are accused of falsely billing sessions every day for a full year, including on holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, the DOJ said.

Prosecutors noted Tuesday that by billing the fraudulent sessions, over 200 infants and toddlers in the EIP program were deprived of legitimate sessions they were entitled to receive.

"The defendants not only stole money from the system itself, they also prevented children with EIPs from accessing the amount of care they were authorized to receive. When systems designed to help our most vulnerable are manipulated in this way, rest assured federal charges will be applied," said Michael Driscoll, FBI assistant director in charge for the New York Field Office.

Each of the nine therapists was arrested and charged on Tuesday. Charges were announced by Driscoll, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace and New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett.

"As alleged, the defendants exploited disabled infants and toddlers, the youngest
and most vulnerable among us, to enrich themselves by millions of dollars," Peace said in a statement.

"This office and our law enforcement partners will continue to vigorously protect government programs from fraud and abuse that not only hurts taxpayers, but also deprives developmentally delayed children from receiving much-needed services," he added.

If convicted, each of the therapists faces a statutory maximum punishment of 10 years in prison, according to the DOJ.

The nine accused therapists are Marsiste Adolphe, Margaret Dominique-McLain, Mercedes Falcon, Tracy Gibson, Roselee Johnson, Jeannette Monclova, Manuel Moore, Kikelomo Ogundiran and Dino Paolicelli.

Newsweek contacted the EIP for additional comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

DOJ; Therapists Steal Millions EIP Program
Nine New York therapists have been arrested and charged with stealing millions of dollars from a state health program that helps children with developmental delays, the Department of Justice said on Tuesday. Above, a DOJ seal on a lectern during a summit on June 29, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson/Getty Images