Two Queens therapists pilfered funds from programs helping developmentally disabled kids: feds

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Federal agents arrested two Queens therapists on Thursday for allegedly swindling thousands of dollars in government funds from programs aimed at helping developmentally disabled children.

Patricia Hakim, 54, of Forest Hills and Danielle Scopinich, 35, of Ozone Park were among eight therapists in the New York City area named in a criminal complaint unsealed in Brooklyn federal court on Oct. 4.

According to U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue, the eight therapists combined to fraudulently obtain more than $600,000 in funds from Medicaid and the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene through the New York State Early Intervention Program (EIP).

The initiative provides services to developmentally delayed children up to 3 years of age, including physical, occupational or speech therapy, special instruction and social work.

Prosecutors said that Hakim and Scopinich allegedly billed the EIP for services that they never provided, and even went as far as to forge the signatures of parents of children on official paperwork. On numerous occasions, the investigation found that neither therapist was in town — or even in the country — on the dates in which they claimed that therapy sessions took place.

“The victims of this fraud include not only the children and their families who were deprived of the therapeutic care that these defendants claimed to have performed, but ultimately the taxpayers whose taxes support Medicaid,” Donoghue said.

Regarding Scopinich’s case, the criminal complaint noted, she allegedly submitted fraudulent notes and invoices to received a combined $30,000 from Medicaid and the city’s Health Department between January 2015 and July 2017.

Investigators reviewed her cellphone records and found that, on more than 350 occasions, Scopinich was allegedly not present in the area of the therapy session locations at the time that she claimed the sessions occurred. Law enforcement agents also determined that she allegedly forged the signatures of parents, guardians, teachers or daycare providers on official forms on at least 74 occasions.

As for Hakim, prosecutors said that she allegedly bilked Medicaid and the city’s Health Department out of a combined $21,000 between March 2015 and October 2017 after submitting fraudulent forms and invoices for more than 300 therapy sessions that never took place.

A review of Hakim’s banking records found that she allegedly engaged in banking transactions outside of New York state on at least 50 occasions when she claimed to be performing therapy sessions in New York state. Like Scopinich, she also allegedly forged the signatures of parents, guardians, teachers or daycare providers on official paperwork on at least 30 occasions.

Finally, federal agents obtained Hakim’s travel records and found that, on numerous occasions, she had been in Ireland or Spain — or traveling to or from either country — at times in which she claimed to have performed therapy sessions.

If convicted of the charges, Hakim and Scopinich each face up to 10 years in federal prison, Donoghue said.

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