Eleven people have been arrested on charges they lied about their income and employment status to steal a combined $413,000 in taxpayer-funded public assistance benefits, the Nassau County district attorney's office said Friday.
The arrests were the result of a joint investigation by the district attorney's Public Assistance Fraud Unit and the Nassau County Department of Social Services Special Investigations Unit, according to a news release from District Attorney Kathleen Rice.
Among those arrested and charged are Bharat Kumar Bhatt, 67, and Raksha Bhatt, 56, of Oceanside, who between January 2004 and April 2011 stole more than $78,000 in fraudulent Medicaid benefits for their family of four by claiming annual earnings of between $18,000 and $23,000, prosecutors said.
The two, arrested Monday, are charged with welfare fraud, grand larceny and offering a false instrument for filing.
The joint investigation revealed that the two own a dry-cleaning business in Connecticut and have annual bank account deposits between $64,000 and $127,000, the release said. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. They are represented by Edward Jenks.
Two others arrested on Nov. 14 are Qayyum Akhtar, 42, and Sarfaz Ahmed, 48, both of Franklin Square. They were charged with welfare fraud and grand larceny. Prosecutors said that between February 2003 and September 2008 the couple stole more than $74,000 in Medicaid benefits by claiming a weekly income of between $295 and $435. Each faces up to 15 years in prison.
"Public assistance programs are designed to help our communities' most vulnerable members, and those who defraud the system are stealing from every taxpayer," Rice said in the release.
So far in 2012, the Public Assistance Fraud unit has secured 15 felony convictions, 13 misdemeanor convictions, and has recovered $1,199,212.60 in taxpayer money, Rice's office said.
Prosecutors identified the others arrested in the sweep as:
Mohammad Afzal, 54, of Jericho, arrested on Dec. 4. He is charged with welfare fraud, grand larceny and offering a false instrument for filing. Between January 2005 and March 2010, Afzal stole more than $59,000 in Medicaid and food stamp benefits for himself and his family by stating that his monthly household income was between $1,500 and $2,500, depending on the year, Rice's office said. The probe found that during the fraud period Afzal deposited more than $262,000 into personal bank accounts and was listed as the owner of 99 Cents Emporium in Roosevelt. He faces up to 15 years in prison.
Rosa Martinez, 49, of Bethpage, on Oct. 12. She is charged with welfare fraud, grand larceny and two counts of offering a false instrument for filing. Authorities said that between August 2004 and April 2010, Martinez stole more than $54,000 by underreporting her income and failing to disclose that she owned a second home. She was receiving rental income, according to investigators, who also said the declared income was approximately five times lower than her bank deposits. She faces up to 15 years in prison.
Louis Gossert, 52, of Merrick, on Nov. 29. He is charged with welfare fraud, grand larceny and offering a false instrument for filing. Rice said that between April 2010 and January 2012, Gossert stole more than $42,000 in Medicaid, food stamp and Home Energy Assistance Program benefits by underreporting his income. He faces up to 7 years in prison if convicted and is due back in court March 5.
Abed Canales, 34, of Inwood, on Nov. 8. He is charged with welfare fraud in the third degree, grand larceny in the third degree and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree. Between December 2004 and March 2009, Canales stole more than $42,000 in Medicaid benefits by claiming a monthly household income of between $1,500 and $1,733. The investigation revealed that the defendant owned two properties in Great Neck, as well as made annual bank deposits of more than $60,000 during the fraud period. He faces up to 7 years in prison.
Masoud Partieli, 52, and Mojgan Talassazan, 42, of Great Neck, on Dec. 3. Each is charged with welfare fraud, grand larceny and offering a false instrument of filing in the first degree. Prosecutors said the couple stole more than $40,000 in undeserved Medicaid benefits by underreporting their income and claiming that Partieli only worked part-time as a security guard. The investigation revealed that Partieli is the owner of Sam Fashion Corporation. Each faces 7 years in prison if convicted.
Nirmal Singh, 42, of Woodmere, on Nov. 27. He is charged with welfare fraud and grand larceny. Between January 2005 and March 2008 Singh stole more than $20,000 in Medicaid benefits by underreporting his income and claiming to be an employee of the Mediterranean Grill Kebab Restaurant in Westbury, prosecutors said. The investigation revealed that Singh is the restaurant's owner. He faces up to 7 years in prison.