24 THE QUEENS COURIER • OCTOBER 11, 2018 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Queens therapists defrauded programs for dev. disabled: Feds
BY ROBERT POZARYCKI
Federal agents arrested two Queens
therapists for allegedly swindling thousands
Photo via Shutterstock
Howard Beach businesses honored for helping softball league
BY JOSH TOWNER
A collective of small businesses in
Howard Beach were honored for their
years of contributions to the American
Soft ball League, an organization that
assists developmentally challenged adults
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheff er Amato
honored Romanelli-Stephen Funeral
Home, Matteo’s of Howard Beach,
Cross Bay Diner, Wines & Spirits of
Howard Beach and Almonte’s Key Food
Supermarket of Howard Beach with individual
awards for Small Business of the
Each business received a separate award
but were recognized collectively for their
work with the American Soft ball League,
which meets weekly through the summer.
All of the businesses recognized provided
free water, food and equipment.
“These businesses I selected as
September ‘Small Business of the
Month’ went above and beyond not
only in the quality of service they provide
for our communities but in donating
to the folks that need it most,”
Amato said during the presentation.
“All of these businesses demonstrate
how small businesses help to improve
communities. Small businesses are
the backbone of our community and
deserve all the support we can provide-
thanks for all you do!”
Randy Novick, founder and CEO of
American Softball League, attended the
ceremony and thanked the businesses
for their long-time contributions.
“Pheffer Amato expressed and
made them realize in your own words,
just how important their support is and
I truly believe they will have a better
understanding how important they are
to American Softball,” Novick said as
he thanked the Assemblywoman.
Several of the small business owners
expressed their gratitude for the awards
and their pride for their sponsorship of
the American Softball League.
of dollars in government funds from
programs aimed at helping developmentally
Patricia Hakim, 54, of Forest Hills and
Danielle Scopinich, 35, of Ozone Park
were among eight therapists in the New
York City area named in a criminal complaint
unsealed in Brooklyn federal court
on Oct. 4.
According to U.S. Attorney Richard
Donoghue, the eight therapists combined
to fraudulently obtain more than
$600,000 in funds from Medicaid and the
city’s Department of Health and Mental
Hygiene through the New York State Early
Intervention Program (EIP).
Th e initiative provides services to developmentally
delayed children up to 3 years
of age, including physical, occupational
or speech therapy, special instruction and
Prosecutors said that Hakim and
Scopinich allegedly billed the EIP for services
that they never provided, and even
went as far as to forge the signatures of
parents of children on offi cial paperwork.
On numerous occasions, the investigation
found that neither therapist was in
town — or even in the country — on the
dates in which they claimed that therapy
sessions took place.
“Th e victims of this fraud include not
only the children and their families who
were deprived of the therapeutic care that
these defendants claimed to have performed,
but ultimately the taxpayers whose
taxes support Medicaid,” Donoghue said.
Regarding Scopinich’s case, the criminal
complaint noted, she allegedly submitted
fraudulent notes and invoices to received a
combined $30,000 from Medicaid and the
city’s Health Department between January
2015 and July 2017.
Investigators reviewed her cellphone
records and found that, on more than
350 occasions, Scopinich was allegedly
not present in the area of the therapy session
locations at the time that she claimed
the sessions occurred. Law enforcement
agents also determined that she allegedly
forged the signatures of parents, guardians,
teachers or daycare providers on offi -
cial forms on at least 74 occasions.
As for Hakim, prosecutors said that she
allegedly bilked Medicaid and the city’s
Health Department out of a combined
$21,000 between March 2015 and October
2017 aft er submitting fraudulent forms
and invoices for more than 300 therapy
sessions that never took place.
A review of Hakim’s banking records
found that she allegedly engaged in banking
transactions outside of New York
state on at least 50 occasions when she
claimed to be performing therapy sessions
in New York state. Like Scopinich, she
also allegedly forged the signatures of parents,
guardians, teachers or daycare providers
on offi cial paperwork on at least 30
Finally, federal agents obtained Hakim’s
travel records and found that, on numerous
occasions, she had been in Ireland
or Spain — or traveling to or from either
country — at times in which she claimed
to have performed therapy sessions.
If convicted of the charges, Hakim and
Scopinich each face up to 10 years in federal
prison, Donoghue said.
Photo courtesy of Assemblywoman Stacey Pheff er Amato