10 FDNY EMS workers and 3 NYPD traffic agents arraigned for $500G insurance scam
FDNY EMS Workers Busted In Health Insurance Scam
NY Daily News
BY Anthony Izaguirre Christina Carrega Ginger Adams Otis
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Wednesday, December 14, 2016, 1:28 AM
Thirteen FDNY and NYPD workers were charged Tuesday with bilking $500,000 from a private insurance company in what authorities say was a double-dipping insurance scam.
State and city law enforcement agencies collaborated on the early morning bust of 10 city EMS workers and three NYPD traffic agents — all of whom were arraigned on larceny and fraud charges in Brooklyn and Queens.
Eight of the accused Fire Department EMS workers — among them EMTs, paramedics and officers — surrendered at the 112th Precinct stationhouse in Forest Hills at 7 a.m.
One of the men was accompanied by his self-described “best friend,” who waited for his buddy at the stationhouse.
FDNY EMS workers, NYPD traffic agents surrender in insurance scam
“This is a shame,” the friend said, as the FDNY EMS worker got slapped into a pair of cuffs by a cop. “It’s unbelievable.”
City employees (top r.-l.) Yoland Powell, Valeriy Yedvabskiy, Susan James and Morad Touati; (middle r.-l.) Randolph Lowe, Melissa Ovalle, Marc Mastros and Juan Mastros; (bottom l.-r.) Kenneth Lambert, Jose Solis, Devon Graham, Caleb Laves and Anthony Miranda are accused of an insurance scam. (Courtesy NYS Attorney General)
The EMS workers were handcuffed and linked by one long chain in the courtroom before they were brought one by one before the judge. Two other Fire Department workers were arraigned in Brooklyn Supreme Court, along with the three NYPD traffic agents.
All 13 pleaded not guilty.
The double-dipping scam included thefts ranging from more than $3,000 to more than $100,000 per defendant, according to the city’s Department of Investigation, which worked the case for more than two years with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.
The alleged fraud was committed against Aflac, the AG said.
13 city employees were busted in connection to a $500,000 insurance scam. (Jeff Bachner/for New York Daily News)
The city employees signed up for disability insurance through Aflac and manipulated the system by forging physicians’ or supervisors’ signatures to file false claims, he said.
“Cracking down on public corruption is a top priority for my office, and we will continue our relentless work with our partners in law enforcement to root out fraud and waste wherever we find it,” Schneiderman said.
Investigation Department Commissioner Mark Peters warned more arrests would come, adding, “These workers failed us.”
All the EMS workers took out short-term disability policies with Aflac that contained “forged signatures,” said Assistant Attorney General Kevin Frankel.
Defendants suspected of disability insurance fraud leave Queens Criminal Court after being arraigned on Tuesday. (Jeff Bachner/for New York Daily News)
Oliver Storch, an attorney for the majority of the EMS workers, said they were “saddened” by the turn of events.
“My clients are dedicated public servants,” he said. “They would like to ask the public to withhold judgment until the charges can be defended in an appropriate forum.”
EMS union head Israel Miranda said the members were innocent until proven guilty.
“At the end of the day, this is for the courts to decide,” he said.
Defendants try hiding their faces after leaving an arraignment in Queens. (Jeff Bachner/for New York Daily News)
Three EMTs are accused of taking nearly $300,000 of the total. They, and the amounts they’re accused of taking, are:
Marc Mastros, 37, of Queens, $118,630.
Devon Graham, 46, of Queens, $71,310.
Kenneth Lambert, 35, of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., $91,056.
The defendants were given the opportunity to voluntarily surrender on Tuesday morning. (Jeff Bachner/for New York Daily News)
Mastros, Graham and Lambert were arraigned on the most serious felony charges — thefts of more than $50,000. They could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. The 10 other FDNY and NYPD employees were arraigned on lesser charges that could net them seven years in prison if convicted. They are:
Paramedic Juan Mastros, 28, of Queens, $34,176.
EMS Lt. Susan James, 58, of Queens, $9,950.
Paramedic Caleb Laues, 41, of Queens, $41,590.
Paramedic Jose Solis, 34, of Valley Stream, L.I., $27,229.
EMT Mourad Touati, 48, of Queens$31,146.
Traffic Agent Randolph Lowe, 57, of Brooklyn, $4,753.
EMS Lt. Melissa Ovalle, 35, of Brooklyn, $20,670.
EMS Lt. Anthony Miranda, 58, of Brooklyn, $22,550.
Traffic Agent Yolanda Powell, 47, of Brooklyn, $9,505.Traffic Agent Valeriy Yedvabskiy, 58, of Brooklyn, $27,010.