Did you receive a letter from the Bureau of Fraud Investigation? Did they ask you to come in for an “interview”?
You are not alone. The Bureau of Fraud Investigation sends out more than 5,000 of these target letters every year. In some cases, it is just a mistake. In other cases, it is a serious matter that can result in criminal charges and even a prison sentence.
What will happen in your case? That depends on how you respond to the letter.
You have received this letter because the Bureau of Fraud Investigation believes that you lied on your application or recertification for benefits. Some of the common problems are: (1) not disclosing all of your income; (2) claiming that you and your partner or spouse are separated when you still live together; (3) not disclosing a change in your income; (4) having living expenses that are higher than your reported income; (5) not disclosing financial assistance from family members or other sources; and (6) continuing to receive Medicaid benefits from NYC after you moved outside the City.
The letter usually asks for tax returns, bank statements, and identification to prove where you live.
What happens next is extremely important. Whatever you do, do NOT ignore this letter. You need to respond. And the best response is based on careful preparation with an experienced Medicaid fraud defense lawyer.
Do not try to handle the investigators on your own. They handle thousands of these investigations every year. If you self-incriminate yourself, they may charge you with serious crimes that can result in heavy fines, a criminal record, and even a prison sentence.
Get an experienced Medicaid fraud lawyer on your side. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call The Howley Law Firm at (212) 601-2728.
The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) is part of the New York State Attorney General’s Office. It is responsible for investigating and prosecuting Medicaid fraud and abuse. It focuses primarily on physicians, pharmacists, hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare professionals and providers who submit claims to Medicaid.
The prosecutors and investigators in the MFCU are experienced professionals. Many of the investigators are former NYPD detectives, with more than 20 years of experience and street smarts. The lead prosecutors have experience prosecuting complex financial frauds involving millions of dollars. They work with auditors and analysts from a number of state and federal agencies, including the Office of Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG), the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
By the time MFCU investigators contact you, they have already completed most of their investigation. They have gathered and analyzed all of your billing records, interviewed and obtained statements from former employees and patients, and concluded that you did something illegal.
The MFCU prosecutors and investigators have only one objective when they contact you: They want to gather additional evidence so they can charge you with serious crimes.
If you agree to talk to MFCU investigators alone, you will find yourself in a room with at least 3-4 people. They will have at least two investigators, at least one prosecutor, and often an auditor who has reviewed all of your billing records. You will be interrogated on details about specific patients and Medicaid claims that you may not have thought about for several years. Any inconsistency between what you say and what they have seen in the records – even innocent mistakes – will be used as evidence that you are a liar.
You should never meet with MFCU investigators alone. You should retain an experienced Medicaid fraud defense attorney who can talk to the investigators and prosecutors before anyone talks to you. A lawyer who has MFCU experience can often learn why the investigators are targeting you, what evidence they already have, and some of the weaknesses in their case. This information is critical to building an aggressive defense.
To schedule a consultation with an experienced Medicaid fraud defense lawyer, call The Howley Law Firm today at (212) 601-2728.
Several times every month, a mother comes into my office with the same problem. The NYC Bureau of Fraud Investigation claims that she committed Medicaid fraud because she did not report income earned by the father of her children.
Many of the women are telling the truth. They really are separated from the father of their children. They may or may not be getting any financial support. They desperately need Medicaid.
Some of the women are not telling the truth. They claim to be separated, but they are not.
Both groups of women can avoid serious consequences if they follow one simple rule: Never lie to the Medicaid fraud investigators.
You do not have to incriminate yourself. You have the right to remain silent. You also have the right to be represented by a lawyer. And if you handle the investigation properly, you can usually avoid serious consequences.
But if you lie to the investigators, they will show no mercy.
The medicaid fraud investigators already know where everyone lives, works, and gets their mail. They have obtained copies of each parent's driver's license, car registration, and pay stubs showing the addresses they use for their cars and paychecks. The investigators may have addresses from your credit reports, bank statements or credit card statements. They have sat outside your home watching, talking to neighbors, and taking pictures.
In one recent case, a woman went to see the investigator on her own. She told the investigator that her husband lived alone in Pennsylvania, and that she lived in Brooklyn with the children.
The investigator, however, had the husband's cell phone and EZ-Pass records, which showed that his cell phone and car never left the five boros of New York City.
By the time the woman came to see me, she and her husband had been arrested, fingerprinted, and charged with serious felonies. They ended up pleading guilty to misdemeanors, paying a fine, but thankfully avoiding prison.
In another recent case, a couple admitted to me that they falsely stated that they were separated on their Medicaid application and recertifications. I went to see the investigator, alone, and negotiated a settlement before any criminal charges were filed. My clients never had to face questioning by the investigators. I even negotiated a payment plan, so they could pay back benefits over time with no penalties and no interest.
The lesson is simple. Do not lie to Medicaid fraud investigators. In fact, do not talk to investigators alone. Get an experienced Medicaid fraud defense attorney on your side.
To schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Medicaid fraud lawyer, call The Howley Law Firm today at (212) 601-2728.
Medicaid fraud investigations are like a cancer. Early detection and response by an experienced professional can greatly increase your chances of survival.
The Medicaid fraud investigators will decide whether or not to refer your case for criminal prosecution. The consequences of that decision are serious. A criminal prosecution may result in heavy fines, a criminal record, a prison sentence, loss of professional licenses and, if you are not a U.S. citizen, deportation.
You do not want the investigators to make that decision without first considering the evidence in your favor.
The first step is to retain an experienced Medicaid fraud lawyer who is intimately familiar with these types of investigations. By discussing your case with the investigators early in the process, your lawyer can find out what is bothering them, how strong their case is, and where the weaknesses in their case are.
In some cases, your lawyer may be able to provide information that helps the investigators decide not to charge you with a crime. In every case, getting information from the investigators early in the process helps you develop your defenses.
Investigators have the most flexibility early in the process, before a final decision is made. They may decide to drop the investigation based on evidence you provide through your lawyer. Or they may agree to settle the case by having you pay back money. Or they may enter into a cooperation agreement with you if you have evidence against other people they are investigating. Or they may decide to charge only minor crimes, instead of major felonies.
Many of these options disappear, however, once the investigators refer your case for criminal prosecution. At that point, the prosecutor will usually insist on some form of guilty plea and much higher financial penalties.
Simply put, acting quickly to address a Medicaid fraud investigation is your best, and possibly your last, chance of avoiding a criminal record.
To schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Medicaid fraud attorney, call The Howley Law Firm today at (212) 601-2728.
Every week, Medicaid recipients receive letters from the Bureau of Fraud Investigation at the NYC Human Resources Administration. The letters ask you to come in for an "interview" with a Medicaid fraud investigator. They also ask you to bring your tax returns and other documents.
Most people think the investigator wants your tax returns to verify your income. That is not the primary reason. The fact is, the investigator already has your income records. Long before you received that letter, the investigator asked your current and former employers for your payroll records. The investigator already knows how much you were paid.
The investigator wants your tax returns to get other information that will help them prove you committed fraud. Here is some of the information the investigator wants to see on your tax returns:
Your Address: New York City has the most generous Medicaid program, much more generous than New Jersey, Long Island, or Westchester. But only New York City residents are eligible for NYC Medicaid benefits. If you used a New York City address to obtain Medicaid benefits, but the address on your tax returns is outside the City, you could face serious criminal charges for fraud. You need to call an experienced Medicaid fraud attorney before you meet with the investigator or turn over any documents.
Your Marital Status: If you claimed that you were single or separated on your Medicaid application, but your tax returns were filed jointly with your spouse, you have a serious problem. Better call an experienced Medicaid fraud attorney before you see the investigator or turn over any documents.
Your Deductions: If you own a home, you probably deduct the mortgage interest you paid last year on your tax returns. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, you may own a home and receive Medicaid if your income is low enough to qualify for benefits. The problem is when your mortgage interest deduction is suspiciously high. For example, if you claimed on your Medicaid application that you earned less than $25,000 per year, but your tax returns show that you claimed $15,000 in mortgage interest payments, the investigator will suspect that you had another source of income or financial support.
Unreported Income and Financial Support: Most people think they cannot be accused of fraud if they submitted their recent pay stubs when they applied for Medicaid. This is not true. You are required to disclose all income and financial support on your Medicaid application - including income that may not appear on your pay stubs. This is a very complicated issue. For example, if you took a lump sum payment from your IRA or 401-k, that is not considered income for purposes of Medicaid. But if you took the same amount of money from your IRA or 401-k in monthly installments, that may be considered income. Do not guess. Get advice from an expert.
These are just a few of the issues that can get you into serious trouble in a Medicaid fraud investigation. Before you meet with the investigator or turn over any documents, click here to download a free copy of our Special Report, "5 Deadly Mistakes in Medicaid Fraud Investigations."
To arrange a confidential consultation with an experienced Medicaid fraud attorney, call The Howley Law Firm today at (212) 601-2728.
When the government investigates you for Medicare or Medicaid fraud, it has tremendous resources on its side. The FBI, the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and federal and state prosecutors are just a few of the entities that will work together to build a case against you.
You need an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands complex health care laws and regulations. Most of all, you need a trial lawyer who will fight to protect your rights.
John Howley, Esq. has more than 25 years of experience representing clients in complex health care investigations, criminal prosecutions, and civil lawsuits. His clients have included major pharmaceutical companies, individual physicians, physician practice groups, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, and healthcare entrepreneurs.
Defending Against Medicare and Medicaid Fraud Claims
Medicare and Medicaid fraud are serious crimes. If convicted of a felony, you could face up to 25 years in prison. You need an experience healthcare fraud criminal defense attorney to avoid potentially devastating consequences.
Early intervention by an experienced trial lawyer is your best defense. By negotiating with investigators and prosecutors before charges are filed, your lawyer may be able to resolve the dispute without criminal charges or at least lessen their severity.
Once charges are filed, you may have viable defenses. Government investigators may not have all the facts. The credibility and motives of witnesses may be attacked. Motions may be filed to dismiss or limit the charges. Once again, getting an experienced criminal defense attorney involved as soon as possible is critical to building a strong defense.
Do not go into an investigation alone. Remember that the government investigators already believe that you are guilty. Anything you say can and will be used against you. Before you answer any questions or turn over any documents, retain a trial lawyer who specializes in Medicare and Medicaid fraud investigations and defense. Let an experienced advocate help you develop a strategy, prepare a defense, develop the evidence, and present your case.
Protecting Your Freedom, Your Professional License, and Your Livelihood
How you handle a Medicare or Medicaid fraud investigation will impact the rest of your professional career. Even if you avoid criminal prosecution, your professional license could be suspended or revoked, and you could be excluded from government healthcare programs. You could also face financially devastating fines, penalties, and restitution orders.
You need a criminal defense attorney who will be both an aggressive defender of your rights in the criminal proceedings and a smart advocate before licensing and regulatory authorities.
Retaining an Experienced Medicare and Medicaid Fraud Lawyer
John Howley, Esq. has more than 25 years of experience representing healthcare providers. His practice is focused on representing physicians, pharmacists, nurses, medical office staff, and healthcare entrepreneurs in Medicare and Medicaid fraud investigations, criminal prosecutions, the defense of professional licenses, and exclusion appeals.
In recognition of his work as a criminal defense attorney, Mr. Howley has received the Gideon Champion of Justice Award from the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Thurgood Marshall Award from the New York City Bar Association, and the Medal for Excellence in Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers. He has also been named one of New York's SuperLawyers and one of the Ten Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in New York based on client satisfaction.
If you are under investigation or have been charged with Medicare or Medicaid fraud, then you should click here to download our free report, "5 Deadly Mistakes in Medicaid Fraud Investigations."
To schedule a consultation with an experienced Medicaid fraud defense lawyer, call The Howley Law Firm today at (212) 601-2728.
Family Health Plus and Medicaid Fraud Investigations
A Medicaid fraud investigation often begins with a letter from an investigator with the Bureau of Fraud Investigation. The letter may ask you to turn over documents and meet with an investigator for an "interview."
By the time you get this letter, the investigator has already gathered evidence against you. The investigator already believes that you have engaged in fraud. Anything you say at this point can and will be used against you.
Do not try to handle this on your own. One wrong step could result in criminal charges being filed against you. You should contact an experienced Medicaid fraud lawyer immediately, before you say anything to the investigator.
An experienced Medicaid fraud lawyer can help you understand your rights, prepare your defense, and explain your options. Your lawyer can negotiate with the investigator on your behalf. In many cases, hiring a lawyer will save you time, money, and potentially serious civil and criminal consequences.
To schedule a consultation with an experienced Medicaid fraud lawyer, call John Howley, Esq. at (212) 601-2728.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Why am I being investigated?
The Medicaid fraud investigator has information that suggests you are not qualified for benefits. This information may include payroll records, car registrations, property records, and business records. The investigator may have spoken with your employer, your co-workers, or your neighbors.
What are my rights during the investigation?
You have the right to bring an attorney with you to any interviews or meetings with the investigator. You also have the right to consult with your lawyer before providing any documents or answering any questions.
You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to answer the investigator's questions. If you are a Family Health Plus or Medicaid recipient, your benefits cannot be stopped solely because you refused to answer questions.
Should I answer the investigator's questions?
How you respond to the investigation depends on your particular facts and circumstances. Some questions and requests for documents are appropriate. Others may be improper. Sometimes it makes sense to cooperate with the investigator and negotiate a resolution. Other times you must fight to protect your rights.
You need an experienced Medicaid fraud lawyer on your side to help you make these decisions. To arrange a free consultation, call John Howley, Esq. at (212) 601-2728.
What are the possible penalties and consequences?
Medicaid fraud penalties range from repayment of Medicaid benefits to harsh prison sentences. Some of the possible consequences are:
Will the investigator negotiate a settlement?
Depending on the nature of the problem, the investigator may be willing to negotiate a financial settlement to avoid any court cases or criminal prosecution. An experienced Medicaid fraud attorney can help you by negotiating a settlement that reduces the amount owed, by avoiding penalties and interest - and, most importantly, by negotiating an agreement that your case will not be referred for criminal prosecution.
What is Medicaid fraud?
When a recipient of Medicaid or Family Health Plus benefits is investigated, the investigator may suspect that the recipient did not tell the truth or failed to disclose all of their income and assets when they applied for benefits. Some common types of Medicaid fraud involving recipients include:
What is the Bureau of Fraud Investigation?
The Bureau of Fraud Investigation (BFI) conducts investigations of individuals and organized groups who are suspected of committing Medicaid fraud. It is part of the NYC Human Resources Administration's Office of Investigation. Investigations by the BFI may result in Administrative Disqualification Hearings, lawsuits to recover money, or referrals to the District Attorney for criminal prosecution. BFI investigators work out of offices at 151 West Broadway in Manhattan.
Who is the investigator?
Medicaid investigators are trained professionals who know how to conduct a thorough investigation. They work together with other investigators who have 10, 20, and even 30 years of experience investigating thousands of Medicaid fraud cases. They are supported by data analysts, financial auditors, and medical experts.
Free Report and Confidential Consultation
You do not have to face a Medicaid fraud investigation on your own. First, click here to download our free report, "5 Deadly Mistakes in Medicaid Fraud Investigations." Then call our law offices at (212) 601-2728 to schedule a consultation with an experienced Medicaid fraud defense lawyer.
Every year, the New York City Bureau of Fraud Investigation sends out thousands of letters asking Medicaid recipients to come in for an "interview" with a fraud investigator. The "interview" request is actually the last stage of a Medicaid fraud investigation that has been going on for several months.
The investigators already know where you work, how much you earn, where you live, who lives with you, whether you own or rent your home, how much your home costs each month, what type of car you drive, and how much you pay for that car. They know if you own a business or rental property and approximately how much revenue those investments generate.
If you show up for the "interview," two investigators will meet with you in a small, windowless conference room. They will ask you to turn over your tax returns, bank statements, and other personal and financial records. They will make copies of anything you give them, and then they will question you about the details of your finances.
The investigators are not there to help you. They are there to gather evidence and build a case against you. Anything you say can and will be used against you.
The investigators will decide what to do with your case. They can demand that you pay back the cost of Medicaid benefits over the past six years -- which can amount to tens of thousands of dollars per year. Or they can refer your case to the City's lawyers, who will sue you for the money. Or they can refer your case to the District Attorney, who will have you arrested and charged with very serious crimes such as Grand Larceny, Welfare Fraud, and Filing False Statements.
You do not have to face the investigators alone. In fact, you may not have to face the investigators at all. An experienced Medicaid lawyer can meet with the investigators on your behalf and find out what the problems are. Once your lawyer understands why the investigators are looking into your case, he can advise you on a strategy to avoid serious problems.
In some cases, your lawyer may be able to convince the investigators that you have done nothing wrong. In other cases, where you may have made mistakes on your Medicaid application or recertification forms, your lawyer can negotiate a settlement that will avoid any lawsuits or criminal charges. In most cases, the money you save by retaining a lawyer will more than pay for the lawyer's fee.
Most Medicaid fraud cases are won (or lost) at the investigation stage. Before you speak to investigators, click here to download our free report, "5 Deadly Mistakes in Medicaid Fraud Investigations." Then call our law offices at (212) 601-2728 to schedule a consultation with an experienced Medicaid fraud defense lawyer.
Failure to Respond to a NYC Bureau of Fraud Investigation Letter Could Result in Serious Criminal Charges
A young mother came to my office recently in a panic because a NYC police detective called her on the phone and said that she had to "come in and surrender on Medicaid fraud charges."
It turns out that the young mother had received a letter from the NYC Bureau of Fraud Investigation a few months ago. If she had contacted me then, we would have been able to negotiate with the investigator, and we probably would have avoided any criminal charges. But she was afraid and did not know what to do. So she did nothing.
Now she was in big trouble. The District Attorney charged her with three felonies: Grand Larceny; Welfare Fraud; and Offering a False Instrument for Filing. If she was convicted on any of these charges, she could be sentenced to prison and have to pay large fines. Even if she convinced the District Attorney to reduce the charges to a misdemeanor, she would have a criminal record that would make it difficult for her to find a job in the future.
Fortunately, she retained a Medicaid fraud lawyer immediately after the detective called. By negotiating with the District Attorney, we were able to reduce the charges to a violation instead of a crime. She paid back about $6,000 in benefits. She was very, very lucky.
Never, ever ignore a letter from the NYC Bureau of Fraud Investigation. First, educate yourself. Click here to download our free report, "5 Deadly Mistakes in Medicaid Fraud Investigations."
Then, call our law offices at (212) 601-2728 to schedule a consultation with an experienced Medicaid fraud defense lawyer.
Medicaid Fraud Cases Can Result in Civil and Criminal Penalties
Medicaid fraud investigators have several options if they discover that you have provided inaccurate or incomplete information on your applications for Medicaid or Family Health Plus benefits.
The investigator may offer you a confidential settlement. The investigator may send your case for civil litigation – in other words, you may be sued for the amount of benefits you received. Or the investigator may refer your case to the local District Attorney for criminal prosecution.
Some of the most common types of criminal charges for Medicaid fraud are:
Making a False Written Statement: Knowingly making a false statement on your Medicaid or Family Health Plus application is a class A misdemeanor. You can be sentenced to spend up to one year in jail. (N.Y. Penal Law § 210.45).
Offering a False Instrument: Submitting an application or recertification that you know contains false information may be charged as a felony if the government can prove that you submitted the document with the intent to obtain benefits for which you did not qualify. This is a class E felony. You can be sentenced to spend up to four years in prison. (N.Y. Penal Law § 175.35).
Welfare Fraud: Lying on an application or recertification to obtain any form of public assistance benefits worth more than $3,000 is a class D felony. You can be sentenced to spend up to seven years in prison. (N.Y. Penal Law § 158.15).
Grand Larceny: Prosecutors often add a charge of grand larceny based on the value of the benefits you received. In Medicaid fraud cases, the charges are usually a class D felony if the benefits exceeded $3,000. That could result in you spending up to seven years in prison. If the benefits exceeded $50,000, then you could be charged with a class C felony. That could result in you spending up to 15 years in prison. (N.Y. Penal Law § 155.35(1)).
In addition to serving time in prison, you may be ordered to pay back all the benefits that you received. This could amount to tens of thousands of dollars. You also may be fined up to $1,000 per count for misdemeanors and up to $5,000 per count for felonies.
Why do some Medicaid fraud cases result in settlements, while other cases result in serious criminal charges? It all depends on how you respond to the investigation.
Anything you say to the investigator can and will be used against you. On the other hand, if you refuse to cooperate with the investigator, that may cause the investigator to send your case to criminal prosecution instead of a civil settlement. You need to develop a strategy based on your specific facts and circumstances.
Get an Expert on Your Side: If you receive a letter from the Bureau of Fraud Investigation, or if you are contacted directly by a Medicaid fraud investigator, then you should contact an experienced Medicaid fraud lawyer immediately to protect your rights. In many Medicaid fraud cases, contacting a lawyer can mean the difference between a confidential settlement or serious criminal charges.
For more information, click here to download our free report, "5 Deadly Mistakes in Medicaid Fraud Investigations."
Then call our law offices at (212) 601-2728 to schedule a consultation with an experienced Medicaid fraud defense attorney.
Medicaid fraud cases are often won (or lost) at the investigation stage, Before you talk to investigators, educate yourself by downloading a free copy of our special report.
John Howley, Esq.
350 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10118
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