LI doctors busted in Medicare fraud crackdown

Melvin Cwibeker, center, a chiropractor in Woodmere, leaves

Melvin Cwibeker, center, a chiropractor in Woodmere, leaves federal court in Central Islip after being released on $1 million dollar bail on charges of health care fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering in connection with a scheme to steal millions of dollars in medicare funds. (Oct. 4, 2012) (Credit: James Carbone)

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Three chiropractors from Long Island and one from Westchester County were among 92 people charged nationwide with filing $432 million in fraudulent Medicare claims, federal officials said Thursday.

The four -- Melvin Cwibeker, 52, of Woodmere; Richard Hurwitz, 42, of Long Beach; Shimon Metz, 42, of West Hempstead; and Mark Samuel, 52, of Mamaroneck -- entered pleas of not guilty Thursday before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge E. Thomas Boyle in Central Islip to conspiring to commit health care fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Sullivan told Boyle the prosecution was insisting on secured bonds for all the defendants. Cwibeker posted a $1 million bond. Hurwitz and Samuel posted bonds of $100,000 each, and Metz was released on the condition that he return to court Friday to post a $100,000 bond.

Sullivan said the government would seek to seize homes and other property from some of the defendants to recoup some of the stolen money, and that Cwibeker had not been allowed to use his house as collateral for the bond.

Attorneys for the defendants refused to comment after the court session.

The charges against them were among two indictments, two criminal complaints and other documents filed by U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch against 15 individuals in the Eastern District, including six from Brooklyn and two from Queens.

At the same time, Attorney General Eric Holder and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced in Washington, D.C., the string of indictments that had been brought by U.S. attorneys around the country for Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

The latest round of charges follows an earlier round in May against 107 people for filing fraudulent claims totaling about $452 million.

"Medicare and Medicaid fraud not only costs taxpayers, it threatens the programs," Sebelius said in a statement.

The indictment released Thursday in Central Islip portrayed Cwibeker, owner of a Woodmere medical practice in his name, as the prime culprit in a series of schemes that defrauded Medicare of $6.4 million over six years ending in March.

They were accused of submitting bills for medical care for patients, many of them elderly or disabled, at 19 assisted-living facilities in New York City and Westchester County. The facilities were not identified.

Cwibeker was also charged with obstructing a federal audit because he is accused of creating and submitting fictitious medical records after federal officials informed him in 2010 that he was being audited, the indictment said.

The case was adjourned until Oct. 26.

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