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17 Saturday

Hushin\' Russian in Brooklyn med \'fraud\'

Keep those lips zipped, comrade -- and help us rip off Uncle Sam for $72 million!

A Brooklyn medical office used a Soviet-era propaganda poster to tell Russian-immigrant patients to keep quiet about kickbacks they were getting for letting doctors submit thousands of bogus Medicare claims in their names, federal prosecutors revealed yesterday.

"Don't gossip!" warned the Russian-language poster that prominently hung in the "kickback room" of the Bay Medical office on Bay Parkway -- where patients literally lined up for illegal payoffs of a couple of a hundred dollars or so each.

But not everyone kept their mouths shut.

Federal authorities got several people to rat out the alleged scam and yesterday arrested dozens of doctors, employees and patients of Bay Medical and other Medicare "mills" elsewhere in Brooklyn and in Miami, Detroit, Houston and Baton Rouge, La.

It is the largest Medicare-fraud prosecution ever, totaling $251 million in funds swindled from the federal health-insurance program.

Featuring a large drawing of a woman holding an index finger to her lips, the not-so-helpful poster reads: "Keep your eyes open. These days even the walls have ears. Chatter and gossip go hand in hand with treason."

Those threats helped Bay Medical steal $72 million by submitting fraudulent claims, prosecutors said.

Among those busted was 82-year-old Brooklyn resident Valentina Mushinskaya, who allegedly accepted a $1,500 kickback in exchange for allowing doctors to submit her Medicare account for 3,774 medical services over six years.

Prosecutors said her doctors at Solstice Wellness Center in Rockaway Park fraudulently billed Medicare $259,902 and ended up being reimbursed $141,161 for those services, which the Ukrainian immigrant Mushinskaya never received.

After Mushinskaya was released yesterday on $35,000 bond, her nephew proclaimed she had no idea a scam was being perpetrated in her name -- and griped that authorities had handcuffed the diabetic woman when they arrested her.

"She feels ashamed, absolutely shocked," Vladimir Olshanski said as his aunt hobbled along with a cane as she was swarmed by reporters at Brooklyn federal court.

Seven other elderly patients of Solstice also were charged.

Announcing the crackdown yesterday, Brooklyn US Attorney Loretta Lynch said, "Those who would defraud these programs not only hurt some of the most needy and vulnerable but also indirectly impact all Americans."

27 Saturday

Arsenal found across from Brooklyn school

Here’s some family values that only the Hatfields and McCoys can support.

Cops arrested a Brooklyn father, mother, son and family friend for keeping a massive arsenal of handguns, rifles and knives inside their home across the street from an elementary school, officials said today.

Officers seized 10 handguns, 2 assault rifles, 9 regular rifles, 9 shotguns and 2 air guns yesterday from a house on 2438 West Street in Gravesend, where they arrested Thomas Siano, 57, his wife Kathleen, 57, their son Vincent, 30, and roommate Michael Poole, 27.

Cops also grabbed a pile of pills, a large quantity of ammunition – including home made ammo – and enough bladed weapons to make a pirate movie, including, 2 daggers, a machete, a sword, a hunting knife, and umbrella with a secret dagger in the handle.

The bust was made after cops executed a search warrant at the home, which sits across from PS 216, which has classes from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade.

Neighbors said the family had lived in a subdivided 5-unit home in the neighborhood for years. Thomas Siano is a plumber, while is wife is a homemaker and son is unemployed, neighbors said.

Some neighbors felt the bust didn’t surprise them.

“I know they are nutty,” said a neighbor. “They are always hanging out on the steps. I was scared, but definitely glad the problem was solved because I defiantly don’t want to bring up a family with those kind of people next door.”

Charges were pending, as the Sianos and Poole were awaiting arraignment today.

28 Sunday

Gun-stash bust near city school

Here are some family values that only the Hatfields and McCoys could support.

Cops arrested a Brooklyn father, mother, son and family friend for keeping a huge arsenal of guns and knives inside their home across the street from an elementary school, officials said.

Officers seized 10 handguns, two assault rifles, nine regular rifles and nine shotguns yesterday from a house on West Street in Gravesend, where they arrested Thomas Siano, 57, his wife, Kathleen, 57, their son, Vincent, 30, and tenant Michael Poole, 27, on weapons charges.

Cops also grabbed a pile of pills, a large quantity of ammo, some homemade, and enough bladed weapons to make a pirate movie, including two daggers, a machete, a sword, a hunting knife, and an umbrella with a dagger hidden in the handle.

Cops raided the house Thursday after some of the family members were overheard bragging about the guns, sources said. Their home sits across the street from PS 216, which has classes from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade.

Cops don't believe the family had dastardly plans for the guns, or were trying to sell them.

Some of the guns appeared to be collector's items and some were simply broken, with missing triggers.

"The father was very into hunting," said neighbor Gloria Isabella, 80.

She said the elder Siano is a plumber, his wife is a homemaker, and his son is unemployed. Poole is a family friend who was living at the house.

"They are not a threat to the neighborhood, no way," she said.

Other neighbors felt differently, saying cops visited the family often.

"I was scared, but definitely glad the problem was solved," said another neighbor, "because I definitely don't want to bring up a family with those kind of people next door."

Police sources said the guns belonged to the father and son, and that the mother and Poole were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The suspects were awaiting arraignment yesterday afternoon.

22 Wednesday

More than 50 \'worst\' cabbies busted in overcharging scandal

Over 50 of the worst cabbies who allegedly ripped off riders during a widespread overcharge scandal were arrested by the Manhattan DA's office in a massive roundup today.

All of the drivers are considered the "worst of the worst" in the "rate 4" scam, where hacks charged riders the double-fare suburban rate while ferrying people inside city limits.

Some of those arrested will be charged with felonies, others with misdemeanors.

Manhattan DA Cy Vance said 59 drivers were busted for defrauding and stealing from customers over a 20-month period.

Cabbies are suspended until the outcome of prosecutions.

"Although these drivers stole from their customers a few dollars at a time, these scams amounted to a massive fraud that cast suspicion on an industry that is a vital part of our life and economy," said Vance.

Law enforcement authorities pulled off the dramatic roundup by sending out a widespread letter instructing the scam-hacks to go to Taxi and Limousine Commission headquarters at 40 Rector Street this morning.

Authorities said the worst offender was a hack named Santiago Rossi, 66, of Hollis, Queens, who overcharged riders to the tune of $11,066.45 over the course of 5,127 trips.

Driver Mfamara Camara, 38, of the Bronx, ripped off riders to an even larger amount -- $15,502.30 -- over the course of just 4,772 trips.

If convicted, the drivers face up to four years behind bars.

So far, taxi brass has dropped the hammer on thousands of hacks accused of deceptively overcharging riders on a smaller scale, slapping them with hefty fines and revoking licenses from the worst offenders.

TLC officials determined that 45 percent of the driver fleet -- that's 21,819 deceiving wheelmen -- charged unknowing riders the double-rate suburban fare while inside city limits.

The unique scam ripped riders off to the tune of $1.1 million during the course of 286,000 trips.

About 545 hacks were accused of pulling the rouse 50 to 499 times -- and a disturbing 88 who did it more than 500 times.

Seth Katz, a lawyer for two cabbies who turned themselves in today, said he was told yesterday that arrest warrants were out for his clients.

"We're talking about a very small dollar amount over a protracted period of time," he said. "If it was fraud, it would be during a shorter period of time, for a larger amount."

Have a period of two or three years, he said, totaling no more than $3,000. His clients told him it was either that the meter wasn't working or they inadvertently pushed the wrong button.

"They're nickel and diming," he said. "They take thousands of fares a week."

Bhairavi Desai, head of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, agreed, saying, "We still question what evidence the DA has when all of this is based on a technology known for misreporting and breakdowns."

23 Thursday

59 cabbies charged in massive double-rate fare \'scam\'

A traffic jam of cabbies was herded into a Manhattan courtroom yesterday to face charges of cheating some 77,000 riders in the most “widespread con operation” in the industry’s history.

District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. hit 45 of them with the felony charge of scheming to defraud by charging the double-rate suburban fare for rides within the city — punishable by up to four years in prison — from November 2008 to June 2010.

Another 14 drivers were charged with more than 5,000 counts of petit larceny. They either cheated fewer passengers or scammed them for lesser amounts, officials said.

Vance’s spokeswoman said more arrests could be just down the road.

In all, the 59 greediest hacks duped passengers out of $235,000, authorities said.

In addition, 2,000 other drivers allegedly overcharged riders by more than $1 million. They’re being disciplined and fined by Taxi and Limousine Commission judges.

Santiago Rossi of Hollis, Queens, who has a slew of minor TLC violations since 1990, allegedly made the most overcharges, 5,127. Mfamara Camara of The Bronx allegedly swindled the most cash, $15,502.30.

“Consumers were being ripped off at a record pace — sometimes by individual drivers dozens of times a day,” Vance said. Drivers allegedly carried out the scam by quietly tripping a small button on the taxi meter, engaging the “Rate 4” fare.

“With the imperceptible tap of a button in a taxicab, riders went from trusting customers to the unwitting targets of a widespread con operation,” Vance said.

The suspects’ taxi licenses were suspended.

Victims of the scandal rejoiced at the news that the cabbies — who were first exposed by two whistleblowers featured in The Post — will no longer steal another dime.

“I’m proud New York City took issue with this and did something about it,” said Heather Schueppert, a former Upper East Sider who now lives in Texas.

She picked up on the rip-off when her baby sitter’s taxi ride home to Queens suddenly doubled one day.

Yesterday’s round-up began when drivers were lured into appearing at TLC headquarters at 40 Rector Street at 8 a.m. yesterday — until then, 31 had still been on the road.

All 59 drivers knew they had been implicated in the overcharge scam, but the letter they received said they were there for “settlement conferences.”