A fugitive on a federal most wanted list, accused of defrauding Medicare and Medicaid out of millions of dollars in a scheme carried out with what a U.S. judge called “brazenness,” is in custody after more than a decade on the run, federal officials said.
Etienne Allonce, 55, a Haitian citizen who had lived in Hicksville, pleaded not guilty Thursday to the charges at arraignment before U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco at the federal District Court in Central Islip. Bianco, the original judge on the case, ordered Allonce held without bail as a flight risk, pending future hearings.
Officials said U.S. State Department personnel located Allonce in Haiti at the end of August, and the Haitian government expelled him into the custody of U.S. marshals. Federal agents returned Allonce to Long Island on Wednesday, officials said.
Further information on how Allonce was located was not immediately available.
According to the 2007 indictment, Allonce and his wife, Helene Michel, were co-owners of Medical Solutions Management, a Hicksville company that supplied medical equipment and supplies to nursing homes.
Michel, posing as either a doctor, nurse practitioner, wound-care specialist or medical supplier, entered more than a dozen nursing homes and stole confidential identification information from patient’ files, such as Social Security and Medicare numbers, officials said.
The couple then used the information to submit false reimbursement claims for supposedly supplying wound-care products to the patients, pocketing $4.4 million, officials said.
Michel was convicted and sentenced in 2013 to 12 years in prison, in one of the first cases in the country under a new law making it a felony to misuse confidential medical records, officials said.
Allonce, however, fled before he could be arrested, and was placed on the Most Wanted list by the office of the inspector general, part of the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Today begins the process of holding Allonce responsible for his crimes, more than a decade after he was indicted on a charge of health-care fraud and left the United States,” Eastern District U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement.
Allonce’s attorney, federal public defender Randi Chavis, declined to comment after the arraignment, as did federal prosecutor Charles Kelly.
At the time of the original indictment in 2007, Kelly said: “There is an epidemic of ID theft and much of it comes out of health-related place . . . There is in the criminal community an insatiable demand for face sheets that” contain a patient’s Social Security and Medicare numbers. They “have become a cash equivalent on the streets of Long Island where they are sold at a price per sheet, per patient.”
The price for each sheet containing confidential information can be up to $100, sources said at the time.