Crime rings rip off billions of taxpayer dollars

first_imgFlamboyant and ostentatious, they drive luxury cars, unwind in multimillion-dollar mansions, flaunt designer clothes and flash dazzling jewels. But behind the glitz lurks what law enforcement officials say is a brazen new breed of organized criminal – Eurasian mobsters who carry out brutal murders, stockpile assault rifles and launder cash around the globe. And the burgeoning Eurasian crime syndicates are increasingly funding their international empires by siphoning billions of dollars from taxpayer-funded health and welfare programs across the United States. “It’s a huge problem, and Los Angeles is the hot spot for this type of crime,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Consuelo Woodhead, who oversees health care fraud prosecutions. “Maybe we still have a little bit of the Wild West here, an area that attracts those who want to get rich quick. It’s also because we have a very diverse, elderly population with a lot of recent immigrants who aren’t necessarily familiar with the Medicare and Medi-Cal systems.” Hundreds of billions While exact figures are difficult to tally, experts estimate as much as $300 billion a year is lost to health care fraud in the United States – more than half of it to organized crime. “It’s hundreds of billions of dollars,” said Malcolm Sparrow, a professor at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and a national expert on health care fraud. “The only question is what is the first digit.” Since 2000, the Los Angeles County Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force has arrested more than 110 Eurasian, Middle Eastern, Nigerian and Asian organized-crime members suspected of health care fraud. Another team, the Southern California Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, says it has arrested more than 100 suspects in recent years on fraud and other charges. “We equate this to like the 1930s and ’40s Mob,” said Glendale Police Department Sgt. Steve Davey, who heads the Southern California team. “We are in a state similar to investigators years ago during the beginning of the La Cosa Nostra investigations. “We’re making headway arresting street-level and midlevel criminals. We have yet to get to the top.” Law enforcement officials estimate more than 2,500 members and associates of Russian and Armenian organized-crime syndicates operate in the county – twice as many as a decade ago. While the criminals are mostly involved in white-collar offenses, investigators say they have also committed more serious crimes, including murder. “We had somewhere around 30 shootings and attempted murders just from 2000 to 2003,” Davey said. Murder for profit Earlier this year, two San Fernando Valley men were sentenced to death for their role in abducting and murdering five Russian immigrants, then dumping their bodies in a Northern California reservoir. A third defendant is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday. The three defendants were part of a Russian mob that used ransoms paid for their victims to buy Mercedes-Benz cars, mink coats and an Aspen, Colo., ski vacation. (In investigating the case, authorities learned that one of the victims was known as a mob “bookkeeper,” who kept accounting records for nearly 30 health care businesses suspected of defrauding the government.) In a county task force investigation of five Glendale and Burbank medical clinics suspected of stealing $25 million from Medicare, officials discovered 41 firearms, ranging from high-caliber assault rifles to a James Bond-type .22-caliber “pen gun.” The team also seized $420,000 in cash and $1 million in jewelry. “It’s equivalent to the cocaine boom of the 1980s,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Stephen P. Opferman, a member of the regional task force. “(But) it just doesn’t involve narcotics – it involves stealing government funds. “We see these people involved living the same lifestyles. There’s a lot of flash and cash – money, jewelry, nice cars and big houses. We are finding people driving three Mercedes, living in $3 million homes – and they have Medi-Cal benefits cards.” $3 billion annual loss Medi-Cal spends about $34billion annually to provide care for about 7 million indigent Californians – with about $3 billion of that lost to fraud, experts say. The state Attorney General’s Office has a bureau that deals specifically with Medi-Cal fraud. It’s prosecuted about 1,000 such cases over the past eight years – double the number for the previous eight years. Most, officials say, are related to organized crime. And the court-ordered recovery of funds ripped off from Medi-Cal hit a record $274 million in 2005-06, nearly as much as all the money recovered in the previous 15 years combined. “For every $100 million in Medi-Cal funds we protect, those funds can provide comprehensive treatment for 8,000 breast cancer patients, treat up to 155,000 people suffering from TB or provide up to 645,000 days of nursing-home care,” said Joseph Fendrick, who oversees the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse. Barbara Siegel, managing attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services in Pacoima, said fraud is driving up the cost of health care and insurance and leaving innocent people with medical bills for services they never received. “They get a bill and come to us and say, `I never saw this doctor or never went to this lab,”‘ Siegel said. And it’s not just Medi-Cal that’s being targeted. Experts say all county, state and federal health and welfare programs are in the bull’s-eye. As Fendrick’s investigators have cracked down on Medi-Cal fraud, many criminals have switched to the federal Medicare program, said Matt McLaughlin, supervisor of the FBI’s Los Angeles Area Health Care Fraud Squad. In a typical scam, crime syndicates send contacts to senior centers, offering nutritional supplements or cash to elderly residents to go to a clinic to fill out Medicare forms and undergo medically unnecessary treatments and tests, McLaughlin said. Benefit-card numbers are often used to bill for medical equipment. Officials at the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services division office in Los Angeles are currently tracking thousands of bills submitted to Medicare for $5,000 power wheelchairs, prosthetics, oxygen tanks and other equipment that beneficiaries never received or didn’t need, officials said. Victims lose benefits In August, division officials visited 400 medical-equipment companies in Glendale, Burbank, North Hollywood and other cities throughout the county and removed 70 from the approved Medicare program list because the businesses didn’t exist yet were billing Medicare. “Many people have lost their Medicare benefits as a result of falling prey to these schemes,” McLaughlin said. The FBI and the county task force have dedicated more resources to investigating Medicare scams. The FBI estimates nearly 60 percent of all its Eurasian organized-crime cases involve government fraud. “Government scams are the bread and butter of these organized-crime groups,” said Opferman, the regional task force member. “It’s kind of like the Gold Rush. This is the reason they are here. “You literally have free money being shoveled out, and it’s a free-for-all. Any government program is susceptible. “They exploit loopholes in every handout we have.” Organized crime’s sophisticated operations often make it difficult to detect fraud by operating legitimate businesses and using shell companies to launder funds. Law enforcement officials say billions of dollars are laundered through banks in Russia, Armenia, Switzerland and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, making it difficult to recover money stolen from U.S. taxpayers. “Once the money goes overseas, the money trail disappears,” Opferman said. And just as the FBI eventually used tax-evasion charges to prosecute Chicago mobsters in the 1930s, authorities are considering all approaches in dealing with crime syndicates. “It’s kind of the Al Capone approach – looking at whether they are evading taxes,” said prosecutor Albert H. MacKenzie, who heads the county’s Fraud Interdiction Program. In the past three years, Mac- Kenzie has identified more than 300 doctors, lawyers and members of organized crime suspected of health care fraud involving more than $200 million in unreported income. “We have individuals who obtain money and use it to set up clinics that remain in operation for a limited period of time, bill for services and then disappear,” said Lance Wong, head deputy district attorney in the Healthcare Fraud Division. “We have a huge problem here. Committing these crimes is lucrative. And the chance of getting caught is slim because the government just doesn’t have the resources to fight it.” Identity theft used Wong’s office is prosecuting a case with organized-crime links that cost Los Angeles city and county taxpayers more than $6.7 million, District Attorney Steve Cooley said. The case is one of a growing number in which organized-crime groups are using identity theft to help commit fraud. In that case, Glendale residents Samvel Melkonyan, 49, and Tigran Ghalmukhyan, 35, allegedly billed the county for medical services performed from 2002 to 2004 using businesses not incorporated until 2005. A preliminary hearing is set for June 18. Prosecutors say the suspects stole the identities of nearly 200 county employees – mostly active and retired sheriff’s deputies – who were unaware that they were listed as “patients” in the scam. The men allegedly issued claims to the county for tests administered by fictitious diagnostic clinics in Van Nuys and North Hollywood, prosecutors said. “The scam was ultimately being run by some Middle Eastern guys living in Dubai,” Opferman said. “There are definitely people living a very lavish lifestyle above (Melkonyan).” Melkonyan’s Los Angeles attorney, Michael Geragos, did not return calls for comment. Last week, Geragos’ office said he was traveling and could not be reached for comment. Cooley said virtually no government benefit program is safe. “The problem is that governmental institutions assume, I think mistakenly, that people who apply for public benefits or compensation are being honest,” Cooley said. “In this day and age, that is an assumption unsupported by reality. … When you start throwing billions of taxpayer dollars around, you need to figure out who is capable of stealing it and how to prevent it.” Difficult prosecution Department of Social Services spokeswoman Shirley Washington said the state is working with county welfare offices to investigate and prosecute fraud. Officials estimate as much as 5 percent of the $5.3 billion spent each year providing food stamps and general welfare benefits is lost to fraud, Washington said. “Recent data in Los Angeles County shows that in the five-year period from 1999 to 2004, the state and county worked together to reduce or deny welfare benefits in 77,973 cases involving fraud,” Washington said. “That’s out of 299,048 referrals (in suspected welfare fraud cases).” Stephen Tidwell, assistant director in charge of the FBI office in Los Angeles, said Southern California has a “significant problem” with organized crime groups defrauding government programs. “We have the largest number of agents dedicated to working health care fraud of any FBI office in the country,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a very substantial problem, and we are working in a task force capacity to develop new strategies to increase the impact we can have on those who are committing health care fraud. “But it’s a large problem, and it’s going to take our very best to hope to increase our effectiveness.” troy.anderson@dailynews.com (213) 974-8985 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. 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B.C. Hydro maintains need for Site C, promises to work to mitigate effects

first_img“The decision to advance this project to this stage has not been made lightly. It has resulted from the careful consideration of the future electricity needs of our customers following many years of review and analysis,” she states. “Since B.C. Hydro’s last major facility was built, the province’s population has grown by more than 1.5 million people. Along with that population, B.C.’s economy has continued to expand, bringing more residences, businesses and industrial activity.” However, Yurkovich also acknowledged the areas where the project is expected to have “significant residual adverse effects”: fish and fish habitat, wildlife resources, vegetation and ecological communities, and current use of land and resources for traditional purposes. She admits that for some, the proposed mitigation measures will not satisfy their concerns. “We believe that the substantial work undertaken as part of this assessment demonstrates that the potential adverse effects of the project can largely be mitigated through careful planning, comprehensive mitigation programs, and ongoing monitoring during construction and operations,” she says. “If the Site C project proceeds, it is our intention to work hard to mitigate the effects of the project, and to deliver on our commitments to both First Nations and communities.” – Advertisement -At the same time, she argues there will be many benefits to rate payers, tax payers, local and Aboriginal communities.In the general presentation, Yurkovich made reference to comments made by former B.C. Lieutenant Governor George Pearkes when the W.A.C. Bennett Dam was first opened, noting that they could have easily have been made about this project. In the 1967 opening address, he argued that while everyone may have seen the benefit to the dam at that point, there were many who had concerns about the cost, and whether there would be enough market. Tim Howard, lawyer for the Peace Valley Environmental Association, questioned the relevance of the quote, arguing that Hydro has a far broader range of energy choices than it did forty years ago. Advertisement Yurkovich noted that the knowledge of the project was much higher in the Peace Region, but added that meetings were held in Vancouver in the early stages of consultation. The rest of the public hearing this afternoon at the Pomeroy Hotel is dedicated to looking at the need, purpose and alternatives, continuing through Tuesday. “Is it reasonable to say… that the era that that quote arose from, there are a broader array of choices available to B.C. Hydro today, in terms of evaluating flux load to meet future demand?” he asked. “The implication of the presentation was that what was good in 1967 would be good today.” Yurkovich responded that she’d only brought it up as a point of interest, but responded that Hydro does has a number of choices, and 20 per cent of its energy comes from Independent Power Producers, primarily wind and run-of-the-river hydroelectricity. In a response to a later question by PVEA’s Tony Atkins, she added that those sources can be intermittent and that Hydro must have the necessary capacity. Yurkovich also mentioned in her opening statement the recent poll that B.C. Hydro argued showed more than 80 per cent of residents would be comfortable with the project provided their views are taken into account, the project is approved by the independent review, and conservation efforts are made. Resident Marina Hoffman questioned the validity and credibility of the poll, asking whether the respondents were fully informed of the project and its potential impacts. “How many consultation meetings have you had in the south of British Columbia to make sure that people are well informed before you poll them?” she asked. Advertisementlast_img read more

West Ham defender set for Blackburn loan move?

first_img Doneil Henry Blackburn are confident they can win the race to land the loan signing of West Ham defender Doneil Henry once again during the summer.Henry, who only joined the Hammers in January, moved to the Championship club on a short-term deal in March and made an instant impact at Ewood Park, helping Rovers to three consecutive league victories.But he picked up a hamstring injury during the 3-1 win over Charlton and was forced to undergo surgery which has ruled him out for the rest of the season.Gary Bowyer has admitted his interest in taking Henry back on loan again when he returns to fitness, and it appears West Ham could be open to the idea of letting him gain more experience of English football elsewhere.Hammers co-owner David Sullivan said: “He won impressive reviews for his performances at Blackburn Rovers before getting injured.“If he’s ready for the Premier League then he could get a chance, otherwise it might be that he goes out on loan again to gain more experience.” 1last_img read more

‘Liverpool are a better team without Benteke’ – Roy Evans

first_imgThe jury is well and truly out on Christian Benteke, with former Liverpool manager Roy Evans telling talkSPORT the Reds play much better without the Belgium international.Benteke has failed to prove his worth at Anfield following his £32.5million switch from Aston Villa last summer, with rumours claiming he could leave the club after just one season.While the striker is one of the club’s top scorers this season, eight goals is a measly return for a hitman who proved a prolific goal threat during his stint at Villa Park.Recent reports from Merseyside claim La Liga outfit Atletico Madrid are willing to end Benteke’s Liverpool nightmare and could be set to table a surprise £37million bid for the 25-year-old.And ex-boss Evans believes the towering frontman does more to hinder the team than to boost it, compared to Jurgen Klopp’s other attacking options.“To be fair to Benteke, when he was at Villa he looked a real player and he scored a lot of goals, but Liverpool have never found a way to play with him.“The difference for Liverpool is that when Daniel Sturridge plays, the movement is fantastic and they get behind defences.“When Benteke plays he’s a bit static in the middle, he doesn’t drift to the wide areas and make space for the people, and it blocks up their play.“They look a far better team when they play with Sturridge, so from Jurgen’s point of view I think that’s the way forward.”Liverpool will take on Klopp’s former side Borussia Dortmund on Thursday night in the first-leg of their Europa League quarter-final, but Benteke has remained on Merseyside with injury.Daniel Sturridge is still yet to fully recover after his recent return from the sidelines, but Evans insists the England forward should get the nod to start against the German side.Asked if Sturridge should start the game, which you can hear LIVE on talkSPORT, he added: “Certainly, yes.“He’s only been playing around an hour every game. He looks really disappointed when he comes off, but he’s still not at his top fitness level.“I would certainly start with Sturridge because he’s got pace and that extra bit of special ability in the box. Hopefully we can make that pay against Borussia Dortmund.”Tune into talkSPORT from 20:00 on Thursday for LIVE Europa League commentary of Borussia Dortmund v Liverpoollast_img read more

DDTV: HOW DONEGAL MAN SÉAN MADE THE SAN DIEGO TV NEWS!

first_imgGLENCOLMCILLE MAN Sean Og Mac Uidhir is loving his life in California.He loves the hot weather in San Diego and all that comes with it – except the chewing gum which melts on the pavements there. So when an innovative new system was brought it to remove the sticky mess…Sean was hand on to give his approval to the local TV station’s teatime news.Click play to watch. DDTV: HOW DONEGAL MAN SÉAN MADE THE SAN DIEGO TV NEWS! was last modified: December 18th, 2015 by John2Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more

GET STOCKED UP FOR EURO 2016 AT CENTRA GLENCAR

first_imgEURO 2016: To help you celebrate the start of Euro 2016, Ronald and the team at Glencar Centra have some amazing offers for you this weekend. Remember to check out our Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/ gormleyscentraletterkenny/ for these and loads more amazing Euro 2016 specials. The winners of last week’s BBQ Competition will be announced here on Donegal Daily tomorrow, Friday 10th June 2016 with the launch of this week’s competition.Let’s all get behind the boys in green!GET STOCKED UP FOR EURO 2016 AT CENTRA GLENCAR was last modified: June 9th, 2016 by Mark ForkerShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:BusinessCentra GlencarFeaturesnewslast_img read more

NOMINATIONS SOUGHT FOR DONEGAL SPORTS STAR AWARDS

first_imgThe Donegal Sports Star Committee is now seeking nominations for the 37th awards ceremony which takes in the Mount Errigal Hotel on Friday, January 25th.Nominations must be submitted by the deadline date of Friday, November 23rd and can be done online from the nominations page and emailed to info@donegalsportsstarawards.ie or by completing a simple nomination form which can downloaded and posted to Paul McDaid, Post Office, Ramelton.Please note that the Hall of Fame winner has already been selected by the adjudicating committee so no nominations are required in this category. For further details visit www.donegalsportsstarawards.ie  NOMINATIONS SOUGHT FOR DONEGAL SPORTS STAR AWARDS was last modified: November 11th, 2012 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:DONEGAL SPORTS STAR AWARDSNOMINATIONSlast_img read more

TALENTED DONEGAL BOXER MCGINTY DEFEATED AT JUNIOR EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS

first_imgBrett McGinty was defeated in controversial circumstances in his Junior European Championship bout against Croatian Mladen Sobjeslavski .Brett McGinty was left ‘gutted’ following a controversial decision that resulted in his exit at the Junior European Championships.McGinty was competing against Mladen Sobjeslavski and looked like he was in control of the bout early on.The St Johnston based boxer looked classy and composed in the opening two rounds and seemed to have won both comfortably. That sparked a reaction from his opponent Mladen Sobjeslavski and he upped the tempo in the final round.Sobjeslavski might have shaded the last round as he had to chase it, as it looked as if he’d lost the first two rounds.There was then shock and surprise when the referee raised the arm of the Croatian fighter Mladen Sobjeslavski.McGinty looked visibly stunned as did the rest of his back-room team, there was further surprise when the judges scored the contest 3-0 in favour of Sobjeslavski. TALENTED DONEGAL BOXER MCGINTY DEFEATED AT JUNIOR EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS was last modified: November 4th, 2014 by Mark ForkerShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:boxingBrett McGintyIrelandnewsSportlast_img read more

‘MY TALIBAN SON WANTS TO MOVE TO DONEGAL WHEN HE IS FREED FROM JAIL’

first_imgCONVICTED terrorist John Lindh Walker wants to move to Glenties – when he is released from an American prison…in May 2019!His granny was born here Co Donegal in 1929 and now the man who became famous as ‘The American Taliban’ because he fought the US in Afghanistan wants to come here, his dad has said.But Irish government sources have told donegaldaily.com that Walker “hasn’t got a hope in hell” of being allowed to live here. Walker is no stranger to Donegal. He’s been here before as the picture shows.His dad Frank brought him on a tour to see relatives of his late mother Kathleen Maguire who left Glenties in 1935, aged just six.Said Frank: “We talk about that [moving to Ireland] as an option. What happened in this country, in my son’s case, is completely without precedent where the president himself and members of his cabinet and members of the senate and the speaker of the house and the attorney general repeatedly said that John was a terrorist, an Al Qaeda terrorist, who was fighting against America.“And it so poisoned the public opinion about my son that I’m afraid that he would be in jeopardy walking on the streets of any city in the United States. There are literally people who hate him with such passion that they would kill him as a consequence, not of anything that he did, but as a consequence of this furore that was built up by the president and his cabinet members against John.” Frank, pictured left with his wife, added: “It all relates back to the fact that the 9/11 attacks happened, and then we went to Afghanistan with the ostensible purpose of capturing one person, Osama Bin Laden, and we failed. But what we did get was this kid from California named John Lindh and they, in a malicious and calculated sort of way, said he was a terrorist. In the emotional climate of the time it was enough to divert the public’s attention away from the failures of the government and make people feel that the Government had achieved something worthwhile.”You can read the full interview and story about Walker here:http://duckspeakquacking.blogspot.com/2012/01/by-eoin-reynolds-in-san-francisco-john.htmlDONEGALDAILY.COM – FIRST AGAIN WITH THE BIG STORIES ‘MY TALIBAN SON WANTS TO MOVE TO DONEGAL WHEN HE IS FREED FROM JAIL’ was last modified: January 25th, 2012 by BrendaShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more

DONEGAL LADIES GAA: JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP DRAW MADE

first_imgThe most anticipated draw for junior championship was made at tonight’s county board meeting. Any queries about junior A/B please ask your county board delegate, they should be able to fill you in! Dates to follow. Junior A:Round robin. 1 home game, 1 away, 2 top teams from each group play in the final. Group 1: Gweedore, Carndonagh, and Dungloe.Group 2: Kilcar, Glenties, and St. Nauls.Junior B:Pre Lim: Convoy B v Buncrana Quarter final 1: Letterkenny Gaels v Naomh ColumbaQuarter final 2: Urris v Red HughsQuarter final 3: Malin v KillybegsQuarter final 4: Termon v Convoy B/Buncrana.All games to be home and away in Junior B. DONEGAL LADIES GAA: JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP DRAW MADE was last modified: June 10th, 2013 by BrendaShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:DONEGAL LADIES GAA: JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP DRAW MADElast_img read more