WWW.Justice.gov, Press Release, November 16, 2021
Damian Williams, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (“HHS-OIG”), and Ricky J. Patel, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced the unsealing of an Indictment charging PATRICK NDUKWE, DAVID TRAVERS, and MICHELLE MARTIN with participating in a fraudulent scheme in which TRAVERS and MARTIN improperly routed trips for Medicaid-funded transportation to NDUKWE’s company, Quality Service Medical Transportation (“Quality”) and facilitated fraudulent Medicaid claims by Quality. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Every day, thousands of government employees and private contractors around New York are entrusted with handling, disbursing, and guarding public funds. As alleged, David Travers and Michelle Martin, who were employees at the state manager for Medicaid-funded transportation, abused their roles and the public’s trust when they took payments to steer business to a private company and helped that company submit fraudulent Medicaid claims. This Office and our law enforcement partners will always investigate and prosecute the illegal abuse of public programs for unjust enrichment.”
HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert said: “The defendants in this case allegedly engaged in a greed-fueled fraud scheme that undermined the Medicaid program and diverted taxpayer funds from their intended purpose of providing health care benefits to low-income individuals and families. Together with our law enforcement partners, HHS-OIG will continue to vigorously pursue those who steal from government health programs for personal gain.”
HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel said: “As alleged, these defendants lined their pockets by abusing a program created to provide assistance to the sick and injured in our communities. Working with our partners, HSI will seek out and bring to justice those that attempt to undermine any federal or state program, explicitly those designed to help millions of our most vulnerable in New York.”
As alleged in the Indictment, which was unsealed today, public filings, and statements in court:
In New York, individuals who are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program are eligible to have Medicaid pay for their transportation to and from medical appointments if they are not able to safely take public transportation. To obtain Medicaid-funded transportation, the enrollee or their health care professional must schedule transportation by contacting the private company that is contracted to manage Medicaid-funded transportation in the New York City area (the “Transportation Manager”).
NDUKWE, 56, was the owner and operator of Quality. From in or about May 2017 to March 2020, Quality was paid more than $7.3 million for more than 120,000 trips the company purportedly provided for Medicaid-enrolled customers in the New York City area. However, many of these trip claims were fraudulent and never actually performed. In some instances, the Medicaid-enrollee who purportedly used Quality to travel to a medical appointment had, in fact, never heard of or used the company for any transportation services. In other instances, the driver who Quality said performed the trip had never actually worked for the company. In yet other instances, Quality paid a periodic “kickback” to a Medicaid enrollee to use that enrollee’s personal identifying information to submit a trip claim.
TRAVERS and MARTIN were customer service representatives at the Transportation Manager. Both were responsible for, among other things, receiving calls from Medicaid enrollees who needed transportation and then randomly assigning those trips among the dozens of eligible transportation companies in the New York City area. However, both TRAVERS and MARTIN steered a disproportionately high volume of their trips to Quality. In addition, when certain enrollees requested to be moved from Quality to another transportation company, TRAVERS and MARTIN ensured that the customers were eventually reassigned back to Quality. TRAVERS and MARTIN also scheduled trips for Quality that they knew would not be performed and would allow Quality to submit fraudulent claims for payment. For their fraud, both TRAVERS and MARTIN received payments from NDUKWE.
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NDUKWE was arrested this morning in the Bronx and will be presented later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang in Manhattan federal court. TRAVERS was arrested this morning in Syracuse, New York, and Martin was arrested this morning in East Syracuse, New York. Both TRAVERS and MARTIN will be presented later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Therese Wiley Dancks.
NDUKWE, TRAVERS, and MARTIN are each charged with one count of theft of government funds, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641; one count of health care fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1347; one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349; and one count of violating the Anti-Kickback statute, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b. In addition, NDUKWE is charged with one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation 18 U.S.C. § 1028A. In February 2020, as part of the same investigation, the Government charged 13 defendants involved in a different transportation company.
The crimes of theft of government funds, health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and violating the Anti-Kickback Statute each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The crime of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants will be determined by a judge.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding work of DHHS-OIG and HSI. He also thanked the Office of the New York State Medicaid Inspector General, New York Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, United States Customs and Border Protection, the Syracuse Police Department, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office, the Internal Revenue Service, the New York City Police Department, and the U.S. Probation Office for the Northern District of New York for their assistance in the case.
This case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Brandon D. Harper and Kedar S. Bhatia are in charge of the prosecution. Press Release