Ten people – including three Brooklynites – were arrested and charged for their roles in an alleged $70 million scheme to defraud Medicaid and Medicare by submitting phony claims to the programs through three sham medical clinics, including one based on Avenue V.
The bust was announced December 3, when the suspects were slapped with charges including conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, healthcare fraud and money laundering. Three of the suspects – Vadim Zubkov, Nikoloz Chochiev and Jason Brissett – hailed from Brooklyn while the remaining seven were Queens residents.
Prosecutors say that the defendants recruited homeless people and the financially vulnerable who were insured by Medicare or Medicaid, hauling them to the three clinics to undergo unnecessary medical tests. The procedures were administered by unlicensed personnel, and the clinics ultimately billed more than $70 million in fraudulent claims, according to prosecutors, paying kickbacks to the phony patients.
“As alleged, these defendants corrupted financially strapped people and fleeced Medicare and Medicare to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. To fuel their greedy scheme, the defendants allegedly had phony patients submit to medically unnecessary treatments, paying these ‘patients’ a fraction of what they themselves reaped from the fraudulent billings,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a press release announcing the bust. “The scheme enriched the defendants and burdened Medicare and Medicaid, but the scheme has been exposed and ended.”
The scheme dates back to approximately 2005, according to investigators, masterminded by Zubkov and Queens resident Victor Lipkin. The duo paid off a licensed physician to serve as the owner of record of three sham medical clinics, which they actually controlled. The doctor was almost never in.
The prosecutor did not name the clinics, but identified one as the “Avenue V Clinic.” The other two were in Hillside and Elmhurst.
Led by Chochiev, Brissett and other members of the scheme served as “runners,” who recruited phony patients at soup kitchens and welfare offices, according to the indictment, luring them in with cash offers. They coached them on what to say on various medical forms in order to necessitate the tests.
One of the Brooklyn residents, Chochiev, delivered the kickbacks and also physically threatened violence to those he believed owed money to the ring, according to Bharara’s office.
Lipkin and Zubkov laundered the ill-gotten funds through various businesses under their control. One of them, Exit Management, owned by Lipkin, is registered at 3027 Avenue V – the same address as an unnamed Medical Center, pictured at the top of this story.
Another of the alleged shell companies, V&Z Marketing Inc., owned by Zubkov, is located at 61 Village Road North in Gravesend, the location of a residential condominium.
The government has moved to seize 20 bank accounts related to the scheme.
If convicted, all 10 members face up to 20 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
Aside for Lipkin, Zubkov, Chochiev and Brissett, the defendants include Eduard Zavalunov, Anatoliy Fatakhov, Mariana Swaffar, Jacqueline Pinez, Jonathan Oliver and Gilbert Trotman.