Authorities charged a group of doctors and lawyers with committing an illegal slip-and-fall scheme to steal more than $31 million from companies and insurance companies across New York City.
More than 400 “patients” were instructed to claim they tripped on sidewalk cracks, potholes, and cellar doors over the course of five years and then sign their names to fraudulent lawsuits that totaled millions of dollars.
After staged accidents were staged, patients were referred to specific attorneys, then to specific doctors and specialists, where they received chiropractic and medical care to substantiate their claims, officials said. Patients who went under the knife for the scheme even got to pocket $1,500 for having surgeries they did not need.
To facilitate the scheme, operators would recruit the poorest people they could find, anyone who was desperately in need of money to undergo surgery in exchange for a postoperative payment. There were some patients who were so poor that their first request at planning meetings was for food.
The defendants include George Constantine, 58, and Marc Elefant, 49, both New York-licensed attorneys who represented hundreds of patients and filed fraudulent lawsuits on their behalf, according to Strauss.
Andrew Dowd, 45, a New York-licensed orthopedic surgeon who performed hundreds of knee and shoulder surgeries on patients as part of the scheme, was also charged, Strauss said. Authorities said Dowd earned approximately $9,500 per surgery.
Authorities also charged Sady Ribeiro, 51, is a New York-licensed pain management doctor and surgeon who performed back surgeries, among other medical procedures. Ribeiro paid participants cash kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals and treated nearly 200 patients during the scheme., officials said.
Their maximum prison terms are 20 years in jail for mail and wire fraud.