State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced the arrest of three key figures from Phinaliz Communications LLC on allegations of defrauding the Medicaid program of over $1 million through fictitious transportation services. The accused, Philip Mtui, Mbaga Kaiza, and Tony Taylor, were apprehended last Thursday after a collaborative investigation involving state, local, and federal agencies.
According to DiNapoli, “The defendants allegedly engaged in a systematic scam to defraud the Medicaid program. Medicaid fraud impacts us all, diverting funds from those genuinely in need.” Otsego County Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. lauded the collaborative efforts of various departments, emphasizing that the scheme affected every New York citizen and taxpayer.
Oneonta Police Chief Christopher Witzenberg highlighted the broader societal implications of the fraud, indicating that kickbacks were likely used to fuel substance abuse among vulnerable individuals, resulting in myriad community complications.
Special Agent in Charge with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Naomi Gruchacz, reemphasized the importance of maintaining the integrity of health care programs and ensuring quality services to patients.
Investigators discovered that Mtui and Kaiza, over four years, inflated their bills by claiming payments for non-existent rides or excessively billing for actual ones. Moreover, Medicaid enrollees were reportedly paid by Phinaliz Communications to utilize their service and provide their details to further the alleged criminal activity. The multi-year investigation culminated in extensive surveillance and a warranted search of the company’s headquarters.
While Mtui and Kaiza faced arraignment for theft exceeding $1 million, Taylor, linked to the kickback scheme, awaits his court date in September. As the investigation proceeds, more arrests are anticipated.
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