May 30, 2013

Twelve People Charged With Stealing Taxpayer Money Through Public Assistance Fraud

DA will seek full restitution from defendants who stole more than $370K from taxpayers

MINEOLA, NY - Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced today that 12 people have been arrested and charged with stealing more than a combined $370K in Medicaid, food stamps, and other taxpayer-funded public assistance benefits.

The arrests are the result of joint investigations by the District Attorney’s Public Assistance Fraud Unit and the Nassau County Department of Social Services Special Investigations Unit.

“Public assistance programs are designed to provide basic necessities to the less fortunate, not to scam artists who think nothing of padding their own wallets on the backs of the taxpayer,” Rice said. “Hiding your success to abuse a program like Medicaid is deplorable, and my office will continue to collaborate with our fellow agencies to not only arrest these criminals, but to secure the repayment of every stolen dollar.”

“Our Investigations Unit continues to work tirelessly to root out waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars,” said County Executive Edward P. Mangano. “These arrests should serve as further warning that anyone who cheats our taxpayers will be apprehended and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Medicaid provides free public health insurance to more than 40 million low-income individuals nationwide. It is funded jointly by federal, state, and county governments. Restitution from fraud cases, such as these, is returned to the funding agencies, with approximately 25 percent going to the state and another 25 percent going to the local county.

Since 2007, the District Attorney’s Office has uncovered more than $4.8 million in stolen Medicaid benefits alone and returned more than $3.4 million to the taxpayer.

Charged in the most recent sweep is:

  • Nancy Figueroa, 41, of Oceanside, was arrested yesterday and charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Rice said that between September 2006 and December 2011, Figueroa stole more than $21,000 in Medicaid benefits by underreporting her income and failing to disclose that she owned a house cleaning business. She faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.
  • Mohamed, 45, and Almas Badsha, 40, of Valley Stream, were arrested on May 20 and charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Rice said that between August 2005 and August 2010, the Badshas stole more than $62,000 in Medicaid benefits by underreporting their income and hiding Mohamed Badsha’s ownership of a Manhattan stationary store. They each face up to 15 years in prison if convicted and are due back in court June 4. They are represented by Andrea Wyatt, Esq.
  • Yeimy Gasca, 33, of Elmont, was arrested April 12 and charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Rice said that between March 2010 and March 2012, Gasca stole more than $18,000 in Medicaid, food stamps, and day care benefits by submitting falsified pay stubs that claimed a lower income than what she actually earned. She faces up to seven years in prison if convicted and is due back in court July 17. She is represented by Michael Walsh, Esq.
  • Belinda Lang, 53, of Hempstead, was arrested May 2 and charged with Welfare Fraud in the Fourth Degree and Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree. Rice said that between August 2008 and March 2011, Lang stole more than $12,000 in shelter allowances by joining a rewards program at the hotel where she was living, earning free nights that she used to pay for her lodging while still collecting her full shelter allowance.
  • Jeffrey, 49 and Rosemarie Lovelidge, 42, of Merrick, were arrested November 13, 2012 and charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Rice said that between August 2002 and May 2012, the Lovelidges stole more than $117,000 in Medicaid benefits by failing to report Jeffrey Lovelidge’s ownership of two restoration and cleaning businesses, as well as yearly deposits into their personal bank accounts of between $46,000 and $300,000. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted and are due back in court June 20. They are represented by Harrison Edwards, Esq.
  • Atinuke Odunbaku, 42, of Baldwin, was arrested March 20 and charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Rice said that between July 2010 and June 2012, Odunbaku stole more than $60,000 in Medicaid benefits, claiming the father of her four children to be out of the household. In reality, the father lived in the house and was employed as a physician’s assistant, whose income combined with Odunbaku’s income as an accountant peaked at $158,000 in 2011. In addition, the couple own property in New York and Georgia. Odunbaku faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted and is due back in court July 19. She is represented by Thomas Sassone, Esq.
  • Alvia Richards, 38, of Franklin Square, was arrested March 27 and charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree. Rice said that between July 2010 and August 2011, Richards stole more than $23,000 in public assistance and food stamp benefits by falsely reporting that three children resided in her household, when in reality, two of the children lived out of state. She faces up to seven years in prison if convicted and is due back in court July 16. She is represented by Michael Director, Esq.
  • Laura Sanfilipo, 51, of Oakdale, was arrested March 12 and charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Rice said that between September 2007 and April 2011, Sanfilipo stole more than $34,000 in Medicaid and food stamp benefits by failing to report that she was living with her child’s father and did not report his earnings. She faces up to seven years in prison if convicted and is due back in court June 3. She is represented by the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County.
  • Aftab Amray, 57, of Rockville Centre, was arrested January 18 and pleaded guilty to Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree in late April. Rice said that between December 2003 and February 2009, Amray stole more than $33,000 in Medicaid benefits by falsely reporting a weekly income of $300. In reality, he deposited more than $500,000 into his bank accounts during that time period. He is represented by Lawrence Carra, Esq.
  • Eric Engvaldsen, 48, of East Meadow, was arrested April 26 and pleaded guilty to Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree in late May. Rice said that between July 2011 and February 2012, Engvaldsen stole more than $15,000 in Medicaid, food stamps, and public assistance benefits for his household by falsely reporting income of $35 per shift at a fictitious pizzeria. In reality, he worked as an executive chef at a Williston Park restaurant. He is represented by Brian Carmody, Esq.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that 10 percent of health care spending is lost to fraud and abuse. Nassau County spends in excess of $1 billion per year to fund its portion of the Medicaid mandate and New York State’s $52.6 billion annual bill is more than any other state in the country.

Deputy Bureau Chief Andrew Weiss, Public Assistance Fraud Unit Chief Christine Burke, and Assistant District Attorneys Edward Bradley and Meghan Lavine are handling the cases for the District Attorney's Office.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Nancy Figueroa Mohamed Badsha Almas Badsha Yeimy Gasca Belinda Lang Jeffrey Lovelidge
Rosemarie Lovelidge Atinuke Odunbaku Alvia Richards Laura Sanfilipo Aftab Amray Eric Engvaldsen