Monday, November 11, 2019

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces $12.3 Million Settlement With Lenox Hill Hospital For Submitting Fraudulent Medicare Claims For Urology Procedures And Hospital Services


Defendants Admit Practices Resulted in Submission of Several Million Dollars of Inappropriate Claims to Medicare

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (“HHS-OIG”) New York Regional Office, announced today that the United States filed and settled a civil fraud lawsuit against LENOX HILL HOSPITAL (“Lenox Hill”) and its corporate parent NORTHWELL HEALTH, INC. (“Northwell”) (together, “Defendants”).  The Government’s Complaint-in-Intervention (the “Complaint”) alleges that Defendants violated the False Claims Act by fraudulently billing Medicare for healthcare services that did not comply with Medicare law.  The Complaint specifically alleges that in conjunction with Defendants’ employment of Lenox Hill’s former chair of the Department of Urology, David B. Samadi (“Samadi”), Defendants submitted claims for: (1) endoscopic procedures that were performed, at least in part, by insufficiently supervised medical residents; (2) robotic surgeries for which, at some point during the surgery, Samadi left the patient improperly unattended in order to supervise a different surgery; (3) medically unnecessary hospital services; and (4) designated health services referred to Lenox Hill by Samadi when his compensation arrangement violated the federal Stark Law. 

Under the settlement, approved by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, Defendants agreed to pay $12.3 million to resolve the allegations in the Complaint.  As part of the settlement, Defendants also admitted, acknowledged, and accepted responsibility for conduct alleged in the Complaint, including that “Defendants’ practices resulted in the submission of several million dollars of inappropriate claims to Medicare.”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Patients put great trust in hospitals, particularly when it comes to surgery.  Hospitals cannot pay surgeons for their referrals, and they cannot run their operating rooms like assembly lines.  Defendants prioritized maximizing their own revenues over regulatory compliance.  This Office will not tolerate such behavior, and today’s settlement makes clear that the Government will hold hospitals accountable when they engage in such misconduct.”
HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert said:  “Lenox Hill Hospital elected to increase their profits by paying handsomely for referrals without any regard to patient care – ultimately violating Medicare rules and regulations.  The Medicare program is designed to protect both beneficiaries and taxpayers.  We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to enforce these rules.”    
As alleged in the Complaint, from July 2013 through June 2018 (the “Covered Period”), Samadi oversaw Lenox Hill’s Department of Urology, including the training of its medical residents.  During Samadi’s tenure, Defendants encouraged and facilitated surgical practices that violated Medicare’s rules and regulations that govern a teaching physician’s presence and availability during both endoscopy and high-risk, complex surgery.  Although Medicare allows teaching institutions to utilize medical residents in the provision of surgical care, the law requires that a board certified senior surgeon provide adequate supervision.  Throughout the Covered Period, in order to maximize the revenues that Samadi generated for Lenox Hill, Defendants allowed Samadi to engage in an overlapping surgical practice wherein he was insufficiently available to provide the supervisory oversight required by Medicare.  Specifically, Defendants would schedule Samadi to perform two separate surgeries, one endoscopic and one robotic, at the exact same time.  During the course of the two surgeries, a medical resident would remain with the patient undergoing an endoscopic procedure or operation.  Meanwhile, Samadi himself would travel back and forth between the endoscopic room, and an adjacent operating room in which Samadi conducted high-risk, complex, surgeries utilizing a surgical robot.  This practice not only violated Medicare law, it also violated Northwell’s own resident supervision policy – and it resulted in Defendants’ submission of false claims.  Moreover, Samadi’s patients were never informed that their surgeries were scheduled to overlap with another of Samadi’s scheduled surgeries.
Samadi’s operating room practices also resulted in the submission of medically unnecessary claims.  In a further effort to maximize Samadi’s availability to perform revenue-generating surgeries, Defendants allowed Samadi to perform minor diagnostic procedures in a Lenox Hill operating room.  Operating room services, such as the services provided by operating room nurses and/or anesthesiologists, were medically unnecessary in the case of these minor procedures.  Nonetheless, in conjunction with the minor diagnostic procedures that Samadi’s patients underwent in a Lenox Hill operating room, Defendants submitted claims to Medicare for the medically unnecessary operating room services provided.  These unnecessary services were also ineligible for Medicare reimbursement.
Lastly, Defendants submitted claims for health services that violated the Stark Law.  The Stark Law is a federal law that prohibits a hospital from receiving Medicare reimbursement for services referred by a physician with whom the hospital has a prohibited financial relationship.  The law is intended to prevent conflicts of interest in physician referrals.  Throughout the Covered Period, Defendants paid Samadi a guaranteed salary of over two million dollars each year, as well as an annual incentive bonus of an additional two to five million dollars each year.  This compensation grossly exceeded fair market value because it factored in the value of Samadi’s referrals to Lenox Hill.  In addition, in calculating Samadi’s incentive bonus, Lenox Hill included revenues from services not personally performed by Samadi.  This inclusion of non-personally performed services in a physician’s incentive compensation also violated the Stark Law.  Given these facts, Samadi and Lenox Hill had a prohibited financial relationship under the Stark Law throughout the Covered Period.  Defendants therefore were not permitted to submit to Medicare reimbursement claims for the health services referred to them by Samadi.
As part of the settlement, Defendants admitted conduct alleged in the Complaint, including that:
  • At the time of Samadi’s recruitment and hiring, Defendants prepared internal documents that contained analyses of Samadi’s future referrals to Lenox Hill for designated health services.  These documents projected revenues of over four million dollars a year attributable to Samadi’s future referrals.  These documents also projected that, without taking into account these revenues, Lenox Hill would operate Samadi’s medical practice at a loss of over one million dollars each year.

  • Throughout the Covered Period, taking into account only the value of Samadi’s own collections, Lenox Hill operated Samadi’s medical practice at a loss of over one million dollars each year.

  • From October 2016 through at least July 1, 2017, Northwell had an internal policy stating that “[w]hen a Teaching Physician is not present during non-Critical non-Key Portions of the procedure and is participating in another surgical procedure, he/she must arrange for another qualified surgeon to immediately assist the resident in the other case should the need arise.”  The policy further stated, under the section titled “Teaching Physician Requirements for Endoscopy,” that “[t]he Teaching Physician must be present in the room for the entire viewing from the time the scope is inserted to the time the scope is removed.”

  • During much of the Covered Period, Samadi performed surgical operations and procedures at Lenox Hill in the following manner:
    • Samadi performed procedures in two operating rooms – OR 21 and OR 25, and sequenced the order of procedures such that portions of procedures performed in OR 21 overlapped with procedures performed in OR 25, and vice versa. 
    • During the portions of OR 21 and OR 25 procedures that overlapped, Samadi generally performed complex, robotic surgical procedures in OR 25, and residents assigned to be supervised by Samadi performed endoscopic operations and procedures in OR 21.
    • Samadi rarely designated another attending urologist to assist in OR 21 for the portions of the procedure from which Samadi himself was absent because of his participation in another surgical procedure occurring in OR 25.
    • In instances when Samadi stepped away from a procedure in OR 25 to supervise a procedure in OR 21, Samadi would freeze or pause the robotic equipment in OR 25 and leave the patient under the care of the anesthesiologist, operating room staff, and, in some instances, a urology resident.  No other attending urologist was present in OR 25 for the portion of time that Samadi was absent, even though the surgery had not yet concluded.  Samadi also did not inform any other attending urologist of the specific times during a surgery when he was absent from OR 25.
    • It was not Samadi’s personal practice to inform his patients when their surgeries were scheduled to overlap with another of Samadi’s scheduled surgeries.
       
  • Samadi performed cystograms and cystoscopies on patients in OR 21 in certain instances when it was not medically necessary to perform these procedures in an operating room setting.  Lenox Hill submitted to Medicare claims for payment associated with the services rendered by operating room staff in conjunction with these procedures.

  • Defendants’ practices resulted in the submission of several million dollars of inappropriate claims to Medicare.

On Veterans Day, Comptroller Stringer Unveils New Tax Reform Proposal to Support Veterans Struggling Through Affordability Crisis


Amid New York City’s affordability crisis, over 100,000 veterans make less than $35,000 a year
Stringer calls on City and State to create a Veterans’ Renter’s Tax Credit for veteran tenants
Proposal would alleviate growing rent-burden for 32,000 low-income veterans
 New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer called on the City and State to deliver economic relief to tens of thousands of veterans struggling through New York City’s affordability crisis. Comptroller Stringer’s plan would expand an existing tax relief program to target support to veterans who are renters – providing an estimated 32,000 low-income veterans with new support.
“In New York City, we honor and recognize the service and sacrifice that veterans have made to our country – and we must do more to recognize the hardships faced by veterans in our city,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “On Veterans Day, and every day, we must recommit to supporting our veterans. It’s on us to stand up for veterans struggling through our affordability crisis, and we can honor their service by guaranteeing real relief.”
New York State and New York City’s current veteran-targeted tax credit programs leave tens of thousands of veterans without much-needed support – notably among veterans who rent their homes. At the same time, many veterans are struggling economically as the median income for New York City veterans is $35,000, compared to $57,000 citywide. Veterans are also more likely to experience homelessness. Comptroller Stringer’s proposal would expand on an existing program to address these limitations and support New York City’s veterans.
A Veterans’ Renter’s Tax Credit
Currently, veterans who are homeowners can receive tax exemptions to reduce their property taxes by as much as 25% if the veteran served in a combat zone and as much as 50% if the veteran was disabled as a result of their military service. According to the latest statistics, approximately 45,000 New York City veteran homeowners received property tax exemptions totaling $47 million, an average of just over $1,000.
Today, Comptroller Stringer is calling for a new Veterans’ Renter’s Tax Credit, modeled on the existing NYC Enhanced Property Tax Credit program. Comptroller Stringer proposes revising the credit to ensure that low income veterans who rent receive equivalent support as homeowners by making the refund more generous – the average credit last year was $39 for renters – and raising the maximum credit for veterans to $1000. The Comptroller’s office estimates this expanded benefit would provide over 32,000 low income veterans an average benefit of nearly $653 at a total cost of $21 million, a small amount compared to the total residential property taxes of more than $13 billion.
To read Comptroller Stringer’s full proposal, click here.

NYC EM REMINDS NEW YORKERS TO PREPARE FOR WINTER WEATHER


WITH THE POTENTIAL FOR A WINTRY MIX AND FRIGID TEMPERATURES TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY, NYC EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT REMINDS NEW YORKERS TO PREPARE FOR THE WEATHER

A wintry mix of rain and possible snow may cause slippery conditions Tuesday; a cold front moves in Tuesday afternoon bringing frigid temperatures and single-digit wind chill values

  As a low-pressure system moves into the New York City area Tuesday, the New York City Emergency Management Department reminds New Yorkers to prepare for the weather. According to the latest National Weather Service forecast, light rain moves into the area Tuesday morning, and may transition to light snow around noon. The precipitation is forecast to taper off early Tuesday afternoon. A coating to a tenth of an inch of snow is possible for New York City. New Yorkers should prepare for slippery road conditions, exercise caution when driving, walking, or biking, and consider taking public transportation whenever possible.

“With the potential for the first snowfall of the season and the cold weather to follow, you may experience slippery road conditions on Tuesday. We encourage New Yorkers to allow for extra travel time and exercise caution during your commutes,” said NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Deanne Criswell. “The temperatures will also drop drastically; be sure to bundle up, and remember to check on your friends and loved one who may need help during the cold weather.”

“Extremely cold temperatures can be very dangerous for anyone, but especially those at higher risk for hypothermia, such as those who are experiencing homelessness and those without heat at home,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “We recommend New Yorkers stay inside as much as possible, but if you do have to go outside, please bundle up and dress warmly. If you are without heat at home, call 311. Stay alert for signs of hypothermia, like intense shivering, lack of coordination or dizziness, and if you experience them, seek medical attention or call 911.”

As precipitation tapers off, a strong cold front will move through the area Tuesday, bringing a sharp drop in temperatures throughout the day. Temperatures Tuesday night are forecast to be in the teens with single-digit wind chill values. Wind chill values will be in the teens Wednesday morning, with temperatures in the mid-30s. Seasonal temperatures return Thursday, with high temperatures in the mid-40s. 

Safety Tips

·   Allow for extra travel time, and exercise caution when driving, walking or biking. Consider taking public transportation wherever possible.
·    Keep your vehicle’s gas tank as full as possible.
·   Pedestrians should exercise caution and avoid slippery surfaces. Wear sturdy boots that provide traction to reduce slipping. Use handrails when using stairs.
·   Seniors should take extra care outdoors to avoid slips and falls.
·    Have heightened awareness of cars, particularly when approaching or crossing intersections.
·  Wear dry, warm clothing and cover exposed skin if you have to go outdoors. Keep fingertips, earlobes, and noses covered. Wear a hat, hood, scarf, and gloves.
·     Return indoors when shivering. Shivering is an important first sign that the body is losing heat.
·     Be safe when working outside. Working outdoors increases risks for cold-related illness, injury or death. Employers must ensure safe work practices, provide appropriate protective equipment, and train workers on cold and winter weather safety.
·   Limit alcohol intake. Drinking alcohol may make you feel warmer but it causes your body to lose heat faster and impairs judgment. As a result, alcohol actually increases your chances of hypothermia and frostbite.
·  Immediately tell your building superintendent, property manager or owner if you do not have heat. Call 311 if the problem is not fixed quickly and go to a warm place, such as a friend or family member’s home. If you stay at home, wear layers of clothing.
· Check on family, friends and neighbors who may need help in cold weather — especially older adults or people with disabilities — to make sure they are safe inside and have heat.


For more information, visit NYC.gov/EmergencyManagementNew Yorkers are also encouraged to download the free Notify NYC mobile application, which is available from iTunes or Google Play. Notify NYC is the City’s free emergency notification system that allows New Yorkers to also receive phone calls, text messages, and/or email alerts about weather conditions and other emergencies. To learn more about the Notify NYC program or to sign up, visit NYC.gov/NotifyNYC or call 311. You can also follow @NotifyNYC on Twitter.

Census 2020 Hiring Event


MAYOR DE BLASIO ANNOUNCES MAJOR EXPANSION OF MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, ADDITIONAL PROGRAMS FOR CITY VETERANS AT VETERANS DAY BREAKFAST


Variety of new mental health outreach and support programs, new mentorship program part of expanded role for Department of Veterans Services

 Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner of Department of Veterans Services James Hendon today announced a major expansion of programs offered through the Department of Veterans Services (DVS) that will help the City make huge strides forward in its mental health outreach, and treatment efforts for veterans citywide. The Mayor made the announcement at a Gracie Mansion breakfast reception in honor of Veterans Day.

Today’s announcement includes a suite of programs that will revamp the City’s mental health efforts for veterans and touches on a wide variety of mental health components, ranging from peer support and training for mental health professionals to holistic mental health treatments and legal services. Included in the announcement is Service2Service, a joint DVS-NYC Service mentorship program that connects veterans and AmeriCorps alumni with mentors in City government to help them find careers as civil servants.

“As the son of a World War II veteran, I know the men and women who serve our country can carry a tremendous pain that is still felt years or decades later,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “As the only city with our own Department of Veterans Services, New York City is here to help its veterans shoulder the load, and today that means providing them with new tools to look after their mental health. I’m proud of the successes DVS has achieved so far, and I know this announcement will lead to further victories for our city’s veterans in years to come.”

“Far too many veterans struggle to transition back into civilian life following their service, and it's our duty to make sure they feel our support when they return from active duty,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. ”Our heroes deserve nothing less and through partnerships with ThriveNYC as well as local and federal agencies, we will continue to address the stigma around veteran’s mental health by providing them with more of the tools they need for long-term health and success.”

"Properly observing Veterans Day means not only thanking our veterans for their service today, but committing ourselves to have their backs the other three hundred and sixty-four days of the year," said J. Phillip Thompson, Deputy Mayor of Strategic Policy Initiatives. "Today's announcement makes clear that whether it comes to addressing the crisis of veterans homelessness or ensuring our veterans have appropriate tools to address their mental health needs, New York City and the Department of Veterans Services stands with its veterans every single day."

"Too many of the tragedies that befall our veterans after coming home -- whether it's a struggle with addiction or the crisis of veteran homelessness -- are linked to the lack of appropriate tools to address their mental health challenges. So I can think of nothing better we can give our veterans on this important day than a full toolbox to help ensure their needs are taken care of," said Lt. Col. James Hendon, Commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs. "DVS stands ready to help our City's brothers and sisters who have served in the armed forces take care of their mental health needs as they return to civilian life."

Several new mental health programs were part of today’s announcement, including:

Mental Health Support: DVS will recruit more vetted mental health partners to its VetConnectNYC referral service. This will allow the department to scale up all its mental health initiatives, including the VetsThriveNYC Core 4 whole health model, a community and peer-based approach that engages veterans both in clinical settings and through lower-stigma methods such as peer support and cultural engagement.

Legal Services: The City will help provide grants to legal services organizations that will help veterans challenge their discharge status, including LGBTQIA+ veterans given less than honorable discharges due to their orientation or gender identity. With an honorable discharge status, more veterans will be able to receive VA services previously denied to them, including mental health care.

PTSD Treatment: In collaboration with the Research & Recognition Project, a national leader in reconsolidation of traumatic memory (RTM) protocol, the City will recruit licensed mental health professionals for training in RTM, a PTSD treatment method created through working with 9/11 survivors.

Holistic Services: Through public-private partnerships, the City will support veteran-specific holistic treatments, including service animals, meditation training, yoga, and expressive therapy. Through coordinated partnerships with VA medical centers and veterans services organizations, DVS will encourage veterans and their families to seek out additional therapies to complement their mental health care treatment.

Peer Support: Thanks to a $300,000 State grant, the City will create a peer-to-peer program for Veterans facing the challenges of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. The program will be administered through the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project.

Interagency Mental Health Task Force: The City will join a new Mental Health Advisory Council with local, state, federal and private partners through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Additionally, the Mayor and Commissioner Hendon this morning unveiled Service2Service, a new joint City mentorship initiative through DVS and NYC Service. Service2Service will aid NYC veterans and AmeriCorps alumni by connecting them with City employee mentors. The program aims to build relationships between service-minded New Yorkers and empower mentees with the network, knowledge, and resources to continue a legacy of service with the City. The inaugural class of Service2Service participants will include 40 City employees, 20 veterans, and 20 AmeriCorps alumni for a six-month mentorship program.

“Veterans and AmeriCorps alumni share a deep commitment to our communities,” said NYC Chief Service Officer Anusha Venkataraman. “NYC Service is so proud to partner with DVS on Service2Service to create a space where these civic leaders can make connections, develop professionally, and discover the next step in their legacy of service.”

Today’s announcements came at a breakfast reception in honor of Veterans Day at Gracie Mansion, where Colonel Ivan Monclova, combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Commander of the 1st Marine Corps District in Garden City, NY, was the keynote speaker. The Mayor continued his observance of Veterans Day by speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the Veterans Day Parade.

ABOUT THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ SERVICES:

The New York City Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) strives to improve the lives of all veterans and their families, regardless of discharge status. DVS operates as a centralized hub able to put veterans at the center of all its efforts, coordinating services with a range of agencies at the City, state, and federal level, as well as through public-private partnerships. Its mission is straightforward: to foster purpose-driven lives for NYC service members, veterans, and their families through effective connections with the NYC community; targeted advocacy at the local, state, and national level; compassionate service, ensuring that it is easier for veterans to access services and benefits they’ve earned. DVS believes veterans are civic assets whose strength and demonstrated commitment to public service help NYC thrive.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Team Ritchie - It happened, Mr. Trump


Team,
On Monday, President Trump hopped on Air Force One, flew to Kentucky for a pre-election rally, and said this to the Lexington crowd:
"Here's the story," Trump told thousands of supporters ahead of Tuesday's election. "If you win, they are going to make it like, ho hum. And if you lose, they are going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. You can't let that happen to me!"
It happened, Mr. Trump. Thanks to some awesome grassroots organizing, Kentuckians sent one of the worst governors in the country packing Tuesday night — soundly rejecting Trump’s divisive brand of politics in the process. THAT’S the power movements have to bring change.
And it wasn’t just Kentucky. In Virginia, we took back control of the House of Delegates for the first time in 20 years. Democrats now control the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature, a sight unseen since 1993. Even in New York, voters across the city solidified the progress being made on an agenda that benefits working families.
But these victories don’t just happen, team. It takes a strong movement to spread our positive vision for working families — and grassroots campaigns like mine depend on supporters like you for the resources needed to do that.
With less than a year to go before Election Day 2020, we’re working to build a movement capable of beating the ten other candidates in this race. 

Paid for by Ritchie Torres for Congress

EDITOR'S NOTE:

We have to wonder if Councilman Torres knows just whom he is running against? 
Is he is running against Donald Trump for President, or up to ten other candidates for the 15th Congressional District? 

CITY LAUNCHES NEW LEADFREENYC HOME OUTREACH EFFORT TO COMBAT POTENTIAL LEAD PAINT EXPOSURE


The de Blasio Administration today launched a data-based outreach and inspection effort to combat childhood lead exposure. The outreach aims to reach families of young children currently in buildings where lead-based paint might exist.

“We are doubling down on our efforts to eradicate childhood lead exposure through LeadFreeNYC. This unprecedented outreach effort to 100,000 homes will hold landlords accountable and keep our kids safe,” said Kathryn Garcia, DSNY Commissioner and Senior Advisor for Citywide Lead Prevention.

“Ensuring the quality and safety of our housing stock and protecting residents—especially children–is our top priority. This latest outreach effort is part of the comprehensive approach the Administration is taking with LeadFreeNYC to target buildings where children may have been exposed to lead and connect them with the resources they need to stay safe,” said HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll.

“Peeling lead-based paint is the most commonly identified source of childhood lead exposure,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Working with our partner agencies, we take every possible action to ensure that children live in homes that are free of lead-based paint hazards.” 

It is the responsibility of owners to keep their buildings free of lead paint hazards. In buildings constructed prior to 1978, the City will conduct outreach to all units and offer inspections to families with children under six who currently reside in a building where from 2013 to 2018 there was a child with an elevated blood lead level at or above 5mg/dcl. At that time, a blood lead level of 5mg/dcl or above did not automatically trigger a home inspection by City officials, but out of an abundance of caution, the City will now conduct targeted outreach in these buildings.   

The City will call and send letters to approximately 100,000 households in 8,120 buildings to remind New Yorkers of the risks of lead-based paint and provide information on how to identify possible hazards, file peeling paint complaints to get an inspection, and get a child tested. HPD and DOHMH will conduct inspections in apartments with a child under 6 where the tenant requests one. If peeling lead-based paint is identified, the building owner will be required to correct the condition and may receive violations subject to civil penalties or other enforcement. If the owner fails to correct the condition, HPD will make the repairs and bill the owner.

In buildings where there is a history of multiple children with a blood lead level at 5mcg/dL or above, the City will also canvass all homes to identify where children under six live and attempt to inspect those apartments. This door-to-door outreach will be conducted in 403 buildings with approximately 8,900 homes by the City’s Public Engagement Unit. HPD will also audit lead-related documents for 208 multiple dwellings buildings in this targeted group and, where possible, issue violations and take legal action to ensure owners are complying with requirements related to annual notices, inspections and turnover of the unit. This auditing process is the same process that HPD will use for the Building Lead Index, a new proactive auditing initiative that launches this month as part of LeadFreeNYC, which will target 200 additional buildings each year for proactive audits. 

In New York City, public health data points to lead paint and the dust it creates as the primary source of childhood lead exposure. In 2004, the New York City Council enacted Local Law 1 (LL1), which grants the City expansive powers to hold landlords accountable for addressing lead hazards and which helped achieve dramatic declines in childhood lead exposure in New York City.

In July 2018, the City announced more stringent measures to reduce childhood lead exposure and became one of the first jurisdictions in the country to conduct environmental investigations for all children under 18 years old with a blood lead level of 5 mcg/dL or greater. 

In January, Mayor de Blasio announced the LeadFreeNYC plan. The approach is twofold: prevent exposure to lead hazards in the first place and respond quickly and comprehensively if a child has an elevated blood lead level. To protect New York City kids, the City will increase resources and support for children, parents, and health care providers to make sure every child under 3 is tested for lead exposure – and any child who has an elevated blood lead level gets the services they need. A new website, LeadFreeNYC, provides information and guidance for parents, tenants, landlords, and all New Yorkers. The website includes data and progress on the City’s lead prevention initiatives and includes educational materials to help New Yorkers understand the dangers of the lead and the tools available to anyone who may have been exposed to lead.

This week, HPD launched a city-wide LeadFreeNYC ad campaign to educate owners on their responsibilities to identify and safely fix lead-based paint hazards in their buildings. These increased outreach efforts further the City’s work under LeadFreeNYC, comprehensive plan to end childhood lead exposure. 

 Other LeadFreeNYC initiatives include nurse care coordination for every child with an EBLL, enhanced cross-referencing of medical records and birth data to increase blood testing rates for children, programs to help private homeowners abate lead hazards and replace lead service lines, and the creation of the Building Lead Index, a new proactive HPD program that will cross-reference housing violation data and exposure rates to target 200 high-risk buildings a year for audit. 

Wave Hill events Nov 21‒Nov 28


Sat, November 23

Family Art Project: Sí Se Puede

Listen to stories of farmers and activists Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez to learn more about the United Farm Workers Union. Then, look to the creative ways some of today’s farmers are cultivating and harvesting the land. Use this as inspiration to create a dream farm maze to meander through. Free, and admission to the grounds is free until noon.

Wave Hill House, 10AM–1PM

Sat, November 23

Cooking Workshop: Perfect Pumpkin Pie

Do you have pie anxiety? Chef Robert Valencia from Great Performances alleviates all of your pie-making fears in this hands-on workshop. Mix and roll pastry from scratch and make a delicious pumpkin filling laced with seasonal spices. We’ll bake your pie in our Café kitchen and you’ll take it home the same day, plus an extra crust to bake at home. $40; Wave Hill Members save 10%. Registration required, online at wavehill.org or at the Perkins Visitor Center. 

Wave Hill House, 1–3PM

Sat, November 23

Gallery Tour

Tour Glyndor Gallery with Wave Hill’s Curatorial Assistant or Gallery Greeter to get an insider’s view of current exhibitions. A flower’s life cycle of budding, blooming and pollinating, as well as its process of decay, strongly echoes the human condition. The exhibition Figuring the Floral features artists who apply this symbolism to their work—touching on race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, aging and other facets of identity. Participating artists are Derrick AdamsNicole AwaiBahar BehbahaniChristian Ruiz BermanSanford Biggers, Cecile ChongMax Colby, Abigail DeVilleValerie HegartyChristopher K. Ho and Kevin ZuckerDiana LozanoNatalia NakazawaEbony G. PattersonBundith PhunsombatlertLina PuertaSimonette QuaminaDavid Rios FerreiraAlexandria SmithKatherine ToukhyLina Iris ViktorWilliam Villalongo and Saya Woolfalk. Free with admission to the grounds.

Glyndor Gallery, 2PM

Sun, November 24

Family Art Project: Sí Se Puede

Listen to stories of farmers and activists Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez to learn more about the United Farm Workers Union. Then, look to the creative ways some of today’s farmers are cultivating and harvesting the land. Use this as inspiration to create a dream farm maze to meander through. Free with admission to the grounds.

Wave Hill House, 10AM–1PM

Sun, November 24

Garden Highlights Walk

Join a Wave Hill Garden Guide for a public tour of seasonal garden highlights. Free with admission to the grounds.

Meet at Perkins Visitor Center, 2PM

Mon, November 25

Wave Hill is closed.

Tue, November 26

Gallery Tour

Tour Glyndor Gallery with Wave Hill’s Curatorial Assistant or Gallery Greeter to get an insider’s view of current exhibitions. A flower’s life cycle of budding, blooming and pollinating, as well as its process of decay, strongly echoes the human condition. The exhibition Figuring the Floral features artists who apply this symbolism to their work—touching on race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, aging and other facets of identity. Participating artists are Derrick AdamsNicole AwaiBahar BehbahaniChristian Ruiz BermanSanford Biggers, Cecile ChongMax Colby, Abigail DeVilleValerie HegartyChristopher K. Ho and Kevin ZuckerDiana LozanoNatalia NakazawaEbony G. PattersonBundith PhunsombatlertLina PuertaSimonette QuaminaDavid Rios FerreiraAlexandria SmithKatherine ToukhyLina Iris ViktorWilliam Villalongo and Saya Woolfalk. Free with admission to the grounds.

Glyndor Gallery, 2PM

Thu November 28

Thanksgiving Day

Wave Hill is closed today. Enjoy the Thanksgiving Day holiday. The gardens reopen Friday, November 29.

Fri, November 29

Black Friday Meditation

Avoid “Black Friday” busyness! Join us for a community meditation focused on gratitude and clearing your mind of holiday clutter. Get inspired by the outdoors and the peace and tranquility that nature evokes, and learn how to work loving kindness into daily life. Led by Neem Dewji of Yoga for Bliss. Registration not required. Please bring a meditation cushion and be on time; latecomers will not be admitted. Free with admission to the grounds.

Wave Hill House, 11AM–NOON

                         
A 28-acre public garden and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River  and Palisades, Wave Hill’s mission is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscape, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts.

HOURS  Open all year, Tuesday through Sunday and many major holidays: 9AM–4:30PM, November 1–March 14. Closes 5:30PM, starting March 15.

ADMISSION – $10 adults, $6 students and seniors 65+, $4 children 6–18. Free Saturday and Tuesday mornings until noon. Free to Wave Hill Members and children under 6.

PROGRAM FEES – Programs are free with admission to the grounds unless otherwise noted.

Visitors to Wave Hill can take advantage of Metro-North’s one-day getaway offer. Purchase a discount round-trip rail far and discount admission to the gardens. More at http://mta.info/mnr/html/getaways/outbound_wavehill.htm
  
DIRECTIONS – Getting here is easy! Located only 30 minutes from midtown Manhattan, Wave Hill’s free shuttle van transports you to and from our front gate and Metro-North’s Riverdale station, as well as the W. 242nd Street stop on the #1 subway line. Free offsite parking is available nearby with continuous, complimentary shuttle service to and from the offsite lot and our front gate. Complete directions and shuttle bus schedule at www.wavehill.org/visit/.

Information at 718.549.3200. On the web at www.wavehill.org.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

U.S. Attorney Announces The Arrest Of 27 Individuals, Including NYPD Employees, For A Massive Bribery Scheme Relating To No-Fault Automobile Insurance Policies


The Defendants, Including NYPD Employees, Medical Personnel, and Others, Are Alleged To Have Accepted Cash Bribes In Return For Providing the Leaders of the Scheme with the Confidential Information of More Than 60,000 Automobile Accident Victims

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York,  William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Anthony A. Scarpino Jr., the Westchester County District Attorney, Keith M. Corlett, Superintendent of the New York State Police (“NYSP”), and James P. O’Neill, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced the arrest today of 27 individuals – including five 911 operators and a uniformed police officer employed by the New York City Police Department (“the NYPD Defendants”) – in connection with a multimillion-dollar scheme to commit bribery and violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) (the “No-Fault Scheme”).  Twenty-three of the 27 defendants were arrested this morning in New York and New Jersey and are scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Gabriel Gorenstein in federal court later today.  Defendant LATIFAH ABDUL-KHALIQ will be presented today before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in North Carolina, and defendant KOURTNEI WILLIAMS will be presented today before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Miami, Florida.  Defendant LEON BLUE, a/k/a “Boochie,” is in custody in New Jersey and will be presented in Manhattan at a later date.  Defendant TARA ROSE, a/k/a “Christine Waters,” a/k/a “Christine Hinds,” a/k/a “Taylor Hinds,” was also arrested this morning, and will be presented in Manhattan at a later date.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe.

As part of the scheme, the alleged ringleader, defendant ANTHONY ROSE, a/k/a “Todd Chambers,” and his co-conspirators bribed 911 operators, medical personnel, and police officers for the confidential information of tens of thousands of motor vehicle accident victims.  Using this information, ROSE and his co-conspirators contacted victims, lied to them, and steered them to clinics and lawyers handpicked by ROSE and his associates. These clinics and lawyers then paid ROSE kickbacks for these referrals, which ROSE distributed to co-conspirators as payments and bribes.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Anthony Rose and his associates masterminded a brazen scheme that involved bribing 911 operators, medical personnel, and police officers for the confidential information of tens of thousands of motor vehicle accident victims.  These actions have undermined the integrity of our emergency and medical first responders.  This Office is committed to rooting out corruption wherever it is found, and will not rest until those who seek to profit by corrupting our public institutions are bought to justice.” 
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “The charges alleged in today’s indictment describe a scheme that blatantly violated HIPAA laws and actively targeted those the act was established to protect. May today’s arrests be a reminder to everyone that capitalizing on the pain and suffering of others won’t win you any favors in the court of law.”
Westchester District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino Jr. said:  “This five-year-long collaborative investigation, initiated by my Office and the New York State Police, is significant as it has exposed the systematic flaws in the no-fault insurance laws and those who seek to abuse them.  My Office is committed to uncovering fraud and prosecuting those who profit by abuse.  The nature of this fraud and bribery results in higher insurance premiums and unnecessary medical costs which impacts us all.  Hopefully, this prosecution will act as a deterrent to those who seek to profit illegally by gaming the system.  I want to thank our law enforcement partners – U.S. Attorney Berman and the Southern District, the New York State Police, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, New York State Department of Financial Services and the F.B.I. – in rooting out this extensive corruption and bringing those responsible to justice.” 
State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett said:  “It is unconscionable for any entrusted public official to use their authority or position as a public servant to take advantage of others, especially in the manner alleged.  I commend our State Police members and all of our law enforcement partners for their outstanding investigative work on this case.  It sends a clear message that no one is above the law, and such alleged abuse of power, especially when it involves the manipulation of victims, will not be tolerated.”
NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said: “Corruption, in all forms, is intolerable within the NYPD and we continue to work with our law enforcement partners to expose these sorts of schemes. Insurance fraud costs companies and policy holders millions upon millions of dollars a year and I want to thank the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, the New York State Police, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the NYC Department of Financial Services, the Westchester County D.A.’s office and our NYPD investigators who brought justice for victims in this case.”
According to allegations contained in the Indictment[1] unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:  
Background of the Scheme
The charges in the Indictment result from a multi-year investigation of a widespread bribery, corruption, and kickback scheme relating to New York and New Jersey no fault automobile insurance.  Since 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the FBI, and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office have been investigating a criminal enterprise that utilizes the New York and New Jersey no-fault automobile insurance regime to earn millions of dollars in illegal profits.
New York and New Jersey no-fault insurance laws require a driver’s automobile insurance company to pay automobile insurance claims automatically for certain types of motor vehicle accidents, provided the claim is legitimate, and is below a particular injury or damages threshold.  Pursuant to these requirements, insurance companies will often pay medical service providers directly for the treatment they provide to automobile accident victims, without the need to bill the victims themselves.  This process resolves automobile claims without apportioning blame or fault for the accident, thereby avoiding protracted disputes, and the costs associated with an extended investigation of the accident.  ANTHONY ROSE, a/k/a “Todd Chambers,” and his associates, exploited these procedures by bribing individuals with access to confidential information about motor vehicle accident victims, using this information to contact victims under false pretenses, and steering these victims to seek treatment at medical clinics and legal representation from lawyers who were willing to pay kickbacks for the referrals.   
Since at least in or about 2014, ROSE and his co-conspirators have bribed as many as 50 people, whom they called “lead sources” who, at the time they accepted the bribes, were working for federally funded hospitals (the “Hospital Defendants”), the NYPD (the “NYPD Defendants”), and other entities.  ROSE paid these lead sources as much as $4,000 per month, and continuously worked to identify new lead sources, largely through word of mouth, and through the extensive corrupt network he established.  Lead sources were paid in cash and “off the books.” In return, these lead sources unlawfully disclosed protected, confidential information to ROSE and his co-conspirators including victims’ names, contact information, and medical information.
After receiving the confidential victim information from the lead sources, ROSE and his associates provided the information to co-conspirators working at Rose’s Call Center (the “Call Center Defendants”) located in Brooklyn, New York.  The Call Center was staffed with 10 to 15 “employees,” who contacted the accident victims on a daily basis and steered them to seek medical treatment at clinics and law firms handpicked by ROSE.  The Call Center Defendants followed a pre-established “script” during these communications.  Among other things, the Call Center Defendants falsely told accident victims that they were calling from an organization affiliated with the New York Department of Transportation, and that their organization had obtained the victims’ contact information through a so-called Personal Injury Hotline. The Call Center Defendants also brazenly lied that they were calling to protect victims from people who obtain victims’ information illegally and mislead victims into seeking treatment with certain providers.  In actuality, the true perpetrators of these illegal acts were none other than ROSE and his co-conspirators.
In selecting which motor vehicle accident victims to call, ROSE instructed the Call Center Conspirators to target victims from low-income neighborhoods because, in ROSE’s view, these individuals could be more easily brought into the scheme. 
Scope and Participants In the Scheme
From at least in or about 2014 to the present, ROSE and his co-conspirators illegally steered more than 6,000 motor vehicle accident victims to participating clinics and lawyers, who paid kickbacks in return for the referrals.  In addition, this figure is a fraction of the number of actual accident victims whose confidential information was unlawfully disclosed as part of the No-Fault Scheme.  The Call Center Conspirators successfully induced approximately 1 in 10 accident victims to seek treatment or representation from participating clinics and lawyers. Thus, the No-Fault Scheme resulted in the improper disclosure of the confidential information of at least 60,000 motor vehicle accident victims. ROSE and co-conspirators further earned, on average, approximately $3,000 per successful referral.
ROSE and the co-conspirators went to elaborate lengths to conceal the No-Fault Scheme from law enforcement.  Among other deceptive tactics, the co-conspirators generally referred to one another only by aliases;  used “burner” phones with temporary and unidentifiable phone numbers, switched their phone every 60 days; set up numerous fictitious companies; corresponded through encrypted mobile applications; and utilized concealed spreadsheets, which tracked the bribe payments to lead sources, in secret email accounts that co-conspirators could access remotely.  The members of the conspiracy also assigned unique code names to each lead source, such as “J1,” “P2,” and “G6,” and used these code names to refer to lead sources during communications rather than using their true names. 
The Indictment, unsealed today, charges ROSE and the Hospital Defendants with conspiracy to violate the Travel Act, unlawful disclosure of protected health care information, and bribery.  Six other leaders of the conspiracy, including members of ROSE’s family, and the five Call Center Defendants were charged with conspiracy to violate the Travel Act.  In addition, the six NYPD Defendants were charged with conspiracy to violate the Travel Act and bribery.  The names of the defendants, the charges against them, and other information is set forth below.  
The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as the sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge.
Mr. Berman praised the work of the FBI, the New York State Police, the New York City Police Department, the New York City Department of Financial Services, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.  Mr. Berman noted that the investigation is ongoing.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit, and the White Plains Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys Mathew Andrews, Louis A. Pellegrino, Celia Cohen, and Courtney Heavey are in charge of the prosecution.
[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the texts of the Indictment and the descriptions of the Indictment set forth herein constitute only allegations and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Defendant
Age
Hometown
Charges (Potential Maximum Term of Imprisonment)
ANTHONY ROSE,
a/k/a “Todd Chambers” 
51
Jamaica, New York


Travel Act conspiracy, Wrongful disclosure of healthcare information, federal programs bribery.
(25 years)



JELANI WRAY,
a/k/a “Lani”
a/k/a “J.R.” 
35
Brooklyn, New York


Travel Act Conspiracy.
(5 years)


NATHANIEL COLES,
a/k/a “Nat”

66
Cortlandt Manor, New York


Travel Act conspiracy, Wrongful disclosure of healthcare information, federal programs bribery.
(25 years)


TARA ROSE,
a/k/a “Christine Waters,”     
a/k/a “Christine Hinds,”     
a/k/a “Taylor Hinds”
48
Jamaica, New York
Travel Act Conspiracy.
(5 years)

ANTHONY ROSE, Jr.,
a/k/a “Sean Wells”
32
Cambria Heights, New York


Travel Act conspiracy, federal programs bribery.
(15 years)


CHRISTINA GARCIA,
a/k/a “Cindy”
35
Jersey City, New Jersey


Travel Act Conspiracy.
(5 years)


LUIS VILELLA,
a/k/a “Angel Martinez”
32
Bronx, New York


Travel Act Conspiracy.
(5 years)


LEON BLUE,
a/k/a “Boochie”
54
Brooklyn, New York


Travel Act conspiracy, Wrongful disclosure of healthcare information, federal programs bribery.
(25 years)


CLARENCE FACEY,
a/k/a “Face”
34
Brooklyn, New York


Travel Act Conspiracy.
(5 years)



ANA RIVERA,
a/k/a “Melissa Ramos”
  
41
Woodhaven, New York


Travel Act Conspiracy.
(5 years)



DEJAHNEA BROWN,
a/k/a “Michelle Williams”

29
Saint Albans, New York


Travel Act Conspiracy.
(5 years)



TONYA THOMAS,
a/k/a “Karen Schwartz”

48
Brooklyn, New York


Travel Act Conspiracy.
(5 years)



ANGELA MELECIO,
a/k/a “Angie,”
a/k/a “P5”

40
Amityville, New York


Travel Act conspiracy, Wrongful disclosure of healthcare information, federal programs bribery.
(25 years)



STEPHANIE PASCAL,
a/k/a “Steph,”
a/k/a “P2”

47
Brooklyn, New York


Travel Act conspiracy, Wrongful disclosure of healthcare information, federal programs bribery.
(25 years)


MAKEBA SIMMONS

29
Bridgeport, Connecticut


Travel Act conspiracy, Wrongful disclosure of healthcare information, federal programs bribery.
(25 years)



EDWARD ABAYEV,
a/k/a “Eddie”

51
Staten Island, New York


Travel Act conspiracy, Wrongful disclosure of healthcare information, federal programs bribery.
(25 years)



GRACIELA BORRERO,
a/k/a “Grace,”
a/k/a “P8”

42

Brooklyn, New York


Travel Act conspiracy, Wrongful disclosure of healthcare information, federal programs bribery.
(25 years)



BARRINGTON REID,
a/k/a “P9”

60
Bronx, New York


Travel Act conspiracy, Wrongful disclosure of healthcare information, federal programs bribery.
(25 years)



TONJA LEWIS,
a/k/a “J1”

53
Belleville, New Jersey


Travel Act conspiracy, Wrongful disclosure of healthcare information, federal programs bribery.
(25 years)



RAYMOND PARKER,
a/k/a “Andre”
a/k/a “J2”

41
Newark, New Jersey


Travel Act conspiracy, Wrongful disclosure of healthcare information, federal programs bribery.
(25 years)

BERLISA BRYAN,
a/k/a “Lisa”

53
Edison, New Jersey


Travel Act conspiracy, Wrongful disclosure of healthcare information, federal programs bribery.
(25 years)

ANGELA MYERS,
a/k/a “Angie”

37
Brooklyn, New York


Travel Act conspiracy, federal programs bribery.
(15 years)



LATIFAH ABDUL-KHALIQ

47
Raleigh,  North Carolina


Travel Act conspiracy, federal programs bribery.
(15 years)



SHAKEEMA FOSTER

27
Brooklyn, New York


Travel Act conspiracy, federal programs bribery.
(15 years)



KOURTNEI WILLIAMS

33
Brooklyn, New York


Travel Act conspiracy, federal programs bribery.
(15 years)




MAKKAH SHABAZZ, a/k/a “Mecca”

43
Long Island City, New York


Travel Act conspiracy, federal programs bribery.
(15 years)



YANIRIS DELEON, a/k/a “Jen”
           
29
New York, New York


Travel Act conspiracy, federal programs bribery.
(15 years)