By Julia Moro
Thirteen individuals, including four from Queens, and two pharmacy owners have been charged with participating in fraudulent schemes in which Medicare and Medicaid programs were billed more than $163 million, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.
The list of the accused includes five doctors, a chiropractor, three licensed physical and occupational therapists and two pharmacy owners in the Eastern District, covering Queens, Brooklyn, State Island and two counties in Long Island.
Mayura Kanekar, 43, of Bayside; Artem Ashirov, 42, of Rego Park; Yuriy Barayev, 43, of Briarwood and Dr. Harold Bendelstein, 57, of Far Rockaway were among the 13 defendants, according to federal prosecutors.
The charges filed in federal court in Brooklyn and Central Islip, N.Y., are included in the nationwide health care fraud bust led by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which resulted in criminal charges against 601 individuals for their alleged schemes involving approximately $2 billion in fraudulent claims.
“As alleged, the defendants charged throughout the Eastern District of New York as a part of the nationwide health care takedown abused their positions to enrich themselves, while bilking Medicare and Medicaid,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue.
“They did so without regard to the elderly and vulnerable citizens whose health depends upon these essential programs. Licensed medical professionals and others who cheat the system will be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Artem Ashirov of Rego Park, a pharmacist and sole proprietor of ABO Pharmacy in Brooklyn, has been charged with five counts of violations to the Anti-Kickback Statute, according to the U.S. attorney. The charges originate from a scheme in which Ashirov is accused of paying off and offering kickbacks for prescriptions filled at his pharmacy.
Between 2015 and 2018, the defendant billed more than $14.9 million to Medicare and Medicaid, according to federal prosecutors.
Yuriy Barayev of Briarwood, another pharmacy owner, was indicted on one count of health-care fraud. Through his Queens pharmacy, Woodhaven Rx Inc., he allegedly submitted claims for medications that were purportedly dispensed by his pharmacy, but on the contrary, they were never dispensed to the beneficiaries according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.
From November 2013 to December 2015, Medicare reimbursed the defendant’s pharmacy approximately $6.6 million for pharmaceutical claims.
Dr. Harold Bendelstein was charged with one count of health-care fraud and two counts of making false claims, Donoghue’s office said. Bendelstein allegedly billed Medicare and Medicaid for incision procedures to patients’ ears, when in fact the defendant either did not perform the procedure specified or performed no procedure at all, according to federal prosecutors.
Between January 2014 and February 2018, Bendelstein billed Medicare and Medicaid around $585,000 and was paid approximately $200,000 on those claims, the U.S. attorney said.
“Medical doctors and medical professionals should be some of the most trusted people in our lives,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent-in-Charge James Robnett.
“Medicaid fraud is not a victimless crime. Those engaged in schemes like this prey on the most vulnerable New Yorkers, rob the health care system of vital resources, and waste taxpayer dollars,” said Office of Medicaid Inspector General Dennis Rosen. “My office will continue to work closely with our federal partners to hold wrongdoers fully accountable.”
Reach reporter Julia Moro by e-mail at jmoro