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DA: Hicksville Man Charged With Medicaid Fraud

Rice will seek full restitution from defendants who allegedly stole more than $458K from taxpayers

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced on Oct. 18 that a sweep targeting county residents who steal undeserved Medicaid and public assistance benefits has resulted in the arrest of ten people who collectively stole more than $458,000.

Rice said the sweep was the result of joint investigations by the District Attorney’s Public Assistance Fraud Unit and the Special Investigations Unit of the Nassau County Department of Social Services (DSS). The Public Assistance Fraud Unit was established in 2003.

“Public assistance programs were created to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, and those who think they can abuse those programs will be found, arrested, and held accountable,” Rice said. “My office will continue to work with DSS to root out the waste, fraud, and abuse that affect every Nassau County taxpayer.”

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, Rice said.

Charged in the most recent sweep were:

Rizwan Basit, 32, and Shamama Shamin, 28, of Valley Stream were arrested on Sept. 21 and both charged with Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, according to Rice. Rice said that between April 2007 and December 2010, the defendants stole more than $16,000 in underserved Medicaid benefits by failing to disclose the ownership of two Cold Stone Creamery locations, two Mercedes-Benzes, and annual bank deposits between $140,000 and $193,000 during the fraud period. They face up to seven years in prison if convicted and are due back in court on Dec. 7, according to Rice. Kevin Keating, Esq. represents them.

Joan Anzalone, 42, of Glen Cove was arrested on Sept. 1 and charged with Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Rice said that between August 2005 and July 2009, Anzalone stole more than $26,000 in undeserved Medicaid benefits. Anzalone claimed to earn between $15,000 and $17,800 as a self-employed house cleaner, Rice stated.

According to Rice, Anzalone’s undisclosed bank records reveal annual deposits between $16,000 and $118,000 during the fraud period. Anzalone faces up to seven years in prison if convicted and is due back in court on Oct. 31. John Maccarone, Esq, represents her.

Rehman Aziz, 51, and Nighat Aziz, 44, of Sea Cliff were both charged with Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree, Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Rice said that between June 2004 and September 2010, the defendants stole more than $96,000 in undeserved Medicaid benefits by claiming a weekly income ranging between $325 and $525.

Rice said they own their own business and home, and have a yearly income between $56,000 and $116,000. Nighat Aziz was arrested on Sept. 7, Rehman Aziz on Sept.9. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted and are due back in court on Nov. 3. Joseph Conway, Esq, represents them.

Dennis Melandro, 37, of Hicksville was arrested on Sept. 28 and charged with Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Rice said that between April 2009 and May 2010, Melandro stole more than $11,000 in undeserved Medicaid benefits by failing to disclose his employment and income.

Rice said the investigation revealed that Melandro, a licensed real estate agent, operated his own business, Disasterpro, and had deposits into his bank accounts between $158,000 and $738,000 during the fraud period. Melandro faces up to seven years in prison if convicted and is due back in court on Dec. 9, according to Rice. He is represented by Mark Panzavecchia, Esq.

Laurie Morales, 42, of Freeport was arrested on Sept. 14 and charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Rice said that between January 1997 and January 2011, Morales stole more than $162,000 in undeserved Medicaid, Food Stamp, and Day Care benefits by failing to disclose her actual income, the ownership of her home, and the presence of her husband in the household.

According to Rice, from 2004 through 2010, Morales claimed to earn between $200 and $250 per week. Morales had annual bank deposits between $56,000 and $70,000, Rice said. She faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted and is due back in court on October 20. The Legal Aid Society of Nassau County represents her.

Tahira Mundiya, 45, of Farmingdale was arrested on Sept. 14 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 September 2001 and June 2010, Mundiya stole more than $62,000 in undeserved Medicaid benefits by failing to disclose the ownership of a second home with rental income and a gas station. According to Rice, Mundiya faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted and is due back in court on December 2. Brian Carmody, Esq, represents her.

Matthew, 49, and Angela Sutphen, 52, of Massapequa are 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 April 2004 and November 2009, the Sutphens stole more than $167,000 in undeserved Medicaid and Public Assistance benefits by underreporting their income and assets and failing to disclose the ownership of timeshares, a co-op in Florida, a second home in Suffolk County, and the ownership of Cornerstone Bancor Mortgage Company.

Rice said Matthew Sutphen was arrested on Oct. 13. Angela Sutphen is currently incarcerated in an upstate prison for a Suffolk County conviction for Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree. Both face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, according to Rice. The Legal Aid Society of Nassau County represents them.

“These types of crimes are offensive to all Nassau County residents,” said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano. “I want to thank our DSS Investigators for their diligence in investigating these cases. Anyone who attempts to beat the system will be caught and prosecuted.”  

The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that up to 10 percent of health care spending is lost to fraud and abuse. Nassau County spends nearly $250 million 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.

Assistant District Attorneys Christine Burke, Chief of the Public Assistance Fraud Unit, and Brian Heid of the Economic Crimes Bureau, are prosecuting the cases for the District Attorney’s Office.

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