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09 Wednesday

FBI Raids Brokerage Firm With Alleged Mob Ties

The FBI has raided a Manhattan "boiler room" brokerage firm and arrested several people, including one suspect with alleged  links to the mob, officials said today.

The FBI raided two offices in the Garment District and other locations, officials said today. Thirteen people were charged in New York and Florida, including reputed Bonanno crime family soldier Anthony Guarino

Authorities said the brokerage would artificial inflate the value of a stock in a company with misleading sales pitches -- especially to elderly victims. 

Steven Kimmel was the President of the so-called "boiler-room" scheme and the offices of his Powercom/Empire firm along West 36th Street were searched by the FBI Wednesday.

According to court papers, Kimmel "was formerly employed by the Securities and Exchange Commission."

Investigators said the suspects solicited through phone calls more than $12 million from unsuspecting investors who thought they were purchasing shares of stock in Realcast and BBC Gaming companies. 

But 40 percent of the investors' cash was paid straight to Powercom and was never invested in Realcast or BBC Gaming, officials said. 

In addition, mailings stated no commissions were being paid when at least 40 percent of funds were allegedly paid out as commissions.

The suspects were expected to appear in court later Wednesday. Others charged include William Dick, Lance Barbarino, Gabriel Almandi, Ciro Cozzolino, Issac Davis, among others. 

In one case, suspect Jamil Fuller is accused of stealing the $50,000 dollars invested by one elderly client. The entire investment is lost, officials said.

In other cases, suspects allegedly claimed the firm was about to merge and their investment would soar in value. Instead, the suspects allegedly looted the cash.

And in another case, court papers state 50 percent of one $700,000 investment was split between some of the suspects.

The defendants face securities fraud, wire fraud and other related charges.

16 Friday

94 charged in Medicare scams totaling $251M

MIAMI — Elderly Russian immigrants lined up to take kickbacks from the backroom of a Brooklyn clinic. Claims flooded in from Miami for HIV treatments that never occurred. One professional patient was named in nearly 4,000 false Medicare claims.

Authorities said busts carried out this week in Miami, New York City, Detroit, Houston and Baton Rouge, La., were the largest Medicare fraud takedown in history — part of a massive overhaul in the way federal officials are preventing and prosecuting the crimes.

In all, 94 people — including several doctors and nurses — were charged Friday in scams totaling $251 million. Federal authorities, while touting the operation, cautioned the cases represent only a fraction of the estimated $60 billion to $90 billion in Medicare fraud absorbed by taxpayers each year.

For the first time federal officials have the power to overhaul the system under Obama's Affordable Care Act, which gives them authority to stop paying a provider they suspect is fraudulent. Critics have complained the current process did nothing more than rubber-stamp payments to fraudulent providers.

"That world is coming to an end," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told The Associated Press after speaking at a health care fraud prevention summit in Miami. "We've got new ways to go after folks that we've never had before."

Officials said they chose Miami because it is ground zero for Medicare fraud, generating roughly $3 billion a year. Authorities indicted 33 suspects in the Miami area, accused of charging Medicare for about $140 million in various scams.

Suspects across the country were accused of billing Medicare for unnecessary equipment, physical therapy and other treatments that patients never received. In one $72 million scam at Bay Medical in Brooklyn, clinic owners submitted bogus physical therapy claims for elderly Russian immigrants.

22 Wednesday

Dozens of Cabbies Charged With Ripping Off Riders

More than 50 New York City taxi drivers have been accused in a massive fare skimming scam, ripping off riders by manipulating fare meters, authorities charged Wednesday.
In the largest such takedown in city history, 59 cabbies were charged with stealing more than $235,000 during some 77,000 fares over the last 20 months, officials said.
"No one is above the law or below our radar," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. "Although the overcharged amount for each trip may only have been a few dollars, this kind of aggressive scam sends ripples of mistrust throughout our city."

The Taxi and Limousine Commission said that some 2,000 drivers have charged an incorrect fare but most have been punished administratively with fines or by yanking their licenses, said David Yassky, TLC commissioner.

However cabbies who allegedly cheated at least 300 times were charged criminally, Vance said.

He identified the worst offenders as: Santiago Rossi, 66, of Hollis, Queens with 5,127 overcharges costing riders $11,466.45; Mfamara Camara, 38, of the Bronx: 4,772 overcharges at  $15,502.30 and Norman Feiner, 38, of South River, New Jersey with 4,348 overcharges costing $4,288.85.

See Indicted Defendants here.

Officials said the cheating cabbies charged riders double by bumping up the fare to the suburban rate, even though they were in the city.  Authorities unmasked the scam earlier this year, after a tip from a passenger led to an investigation.

“This criminal conduct struck a raw nerve with the public because a trip in a yellow taxicab is a quintessential New York experience for visitors to the city, and a needed means of transportation for many New Yorkers,” said Rose Gill Hearn, the City's Commissioner of Investigations.

Of those arrested Wednesday, 45, were charged with a felony -- first-degree scheme to defraud, punishable by up to four years in prison upon conviction. The remaining 14 were charged with more than 5,000 misdemeanor counts of petty larceny.