A Long Island chiropractor was sentenced Wednesday to a year in federal prison for leading a six-year fraud scheme that netted him more than $4 million from Medicare.
Melvin Cwibeker, owner of Mel Cwibeker D.C. in Woodmere, also lost his license and was ordered to pay restitution of about $4.1 million.
“This money wasn’t yours to take, and it’s as simple as that,” District Judge Joanna Seybert said in a Central Islip courtroom.
Before handing down the sentence, Seybert heard pleas for leniency from the Cedarhurst resident’s three children and wife of 38 years, who tearfully described him as broken and ashamed.
“There is no question in my mind what I did was wrong,” Cwibeker, 61, told the judge. “I let myself down. I let my wife and my children down. I let down my friends.”
In court, supporters described Cwibeker as selfless and giving, always reaching out to help others.
“Give him a chance to flourish again,” Paul Stark, a close friend, urged Seybert.
Malka Pifko said her father was her “support system” and the family, which includes 16 grandchildren, will be lost without him.
Federal prosecutors said Cwibeker and three co-conspirators fraudulently billed Medicare for more than $7 million between January 2006 and March 2012 for treatment that patients in adult homes and assisted living facilities in Brooklyn, Queens and Westchester never received.
Cwibeker pleaded guilty in June to health care fraud and obstruction of a federal audit. He also admitted to hiring employees and directing them to create fictitious patient records.
“This was a concerted, developed criminal scheme,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles P. Kelly, who sought a sentence of 6 1/2 to 8 years.
Prosecutors said three chiropractors Cwibeker hired and trained pleaded guilty in 2013 to participating in the scheme.
Seybert said she believed Cwibeker is a “fundamentally decent person,” but for the fraud “there has to be some jail time.”
Cwibeker’s sentence, technically a year and a day, enables him to qualify for early release for good behavior, according to his attorney, John G. Martin of Great Neck.
The judge allowed Cwibeker, who has been out on $1 million bond since his 2012 arrest, to attend his son’s wedding in June and grandson’s bar mitzvah in October. Cwibeker is scheduled to surrender on Nov. 7.