New York State Gets $2.5 Million in Medicaid Fraud Case

In life, Helen Sieger was the embattled owner of a Bronx
nursing home.
Her employees at the Kingsbridge Heights Rehabilitation
and Care Center went on strike in
2008 after she stopped paying their health insurance premiums, drawing
attention from state lawmakers, labor leaders and even Barack
, then a senator from Illinois.
Ms. Sieger was arrested a year later on charges of
bribing a hospital social worker to steer patients to her nursing home, and of
improperly collecting payments from the state’s Medicaid program. She jumped bail, only to be caught in a Miami
hotel and returned to New York, where she died in custody in 2011.
But now Ms. Sieger is making amends in death.
The state attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, said on
Tuesday that his office had reached a settlement with the estate of Ms. Sieger
to pay a total of $2.5 million to the state’s Medicaid program, which includes
$1.2 million in reimbursements, and $1.3 million for damages.
“There are few programs as sacred and important to our
most vulnerable citizens as Medicaid,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement.
“So, when we have a case involving a criminal scheme that robs Medicaid, our
prosecutors will do whatever it takes to restore those stolen funds — whether
that criminal is alive or we’re forced to settle with their estate.”
Nicholas Gravante, Jr., a lawyer at Boies, Schiller &
Flexner who represented Ms. Sieger’s estate, said that her family was “pleased
to have this matter behind it.”
Ms. Sieger, who took over the nursing home in the
mid-1990s, was removed in 2009 by the State Health Department because of an
issue over the nursing home’s lease. The operation of the 400-bed nursing home,
one of the largest in the Bronx, was eventually transferred to a state
receiver, which still runs it today.
Also in 2009, Ms. Sieger was indicted, accused of paying
Frank Rivera, a former social worker at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia
University Medical Center, $300 for every patient that he referred who was
subsequently admitted to her nursing home, plus a bonus of $1,000 for every 10
patients, according to the attorney general’s office. Beginning in 2005, he
received more than $19,750 from Ms. Sieger.
Mr. Rivera pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor
violations under a state law, and is awaiting sentencing, according to the
attorney general’s office.
The attorney general’s office also said that the
investigation had found that Ms. Sieger, who lived in Borough Park, Brooklyn,
held several bank accounts, including one in Montana with $2 million.
Michael Benjamin, a former Bronx assemblyman, praised the
settlement, calling it an appropriate way for “the state to recoup her
ill-gotten gains.”
“It sends a signal that the state will not be cheated,”
he said. “And that people who steal from the poor and from the elderly will be
pursued whether they’re dead or alive.”