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."