An Uzbek couple living in a penthouse suite and four doctors, including an NYPD surgeon, were indicted on Tuesday for preying on vulnerable Brooklyn residents to defraud the health care system and line their pockets with millions.
Kristina Mirbabayeva, her husband Alexander Kopenkin and her mother Irina Fedorova teamed up with doctors at medical clinics in Canarsie, Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant to fraudulently bill Medicaid and Medicare for phantom tests performed on patients.
Mirbabayeva, 35, and over a dozen others including Dr. Robert Vaccarino, a doctor employed part-time by the NYPD, shared over $146 million in stolen funds from January 2015 through this November, prosecutors said.
"This is a black eye to the health care profession," said Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez who announced the 878-count indictment at a press conference Tuesday. "These individuals preyed on the vulnerable, and for what, more Chanel bags?"
The schemers solicited recruiters to go to soup kitchens and job recruitment offices in Bushwick and East New York. There, the recruiters offered Medicaid or Medicare card holders up to $40 to go to a clinic to get examined.
Prosecutors received a tip about the scam and sent an undercover investigator.
"The undercover spent an hour at the office and the health care provider was billed for 18 separate tests that should have taken 12 hours," Gonzalez said.
Doctors would then analyze the test and were paid up to $50 for each.
Vaccarino, 61, at one point had a backlog of 8,000 tests to read and over time pocketed $1,378,210, according to Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Gibson.
Mirbabayeva and Kopenkin, 31, allegedly made so much off the scheme they were able to pay $3.25 million in cash for a penthouse suite on Bridge St. in Downtown Brooklyn, authorities charge.
Prosecutors froze 130 bank accounts around the world and are attempting to get the money back to taxpayers through restitution payments. Gonzalez said millions have already been returned.
All the defendants were variously charged with enterprise corruption, grand larceny and other charges. If convicted, they face up to 25 years in prison.