A former Hicksville man who was a federal fugitive before being captured after almost 10 years on the run pleaded guilty Monday to operating a $7 million Medicaid scheme carried out with what a judge called “brazenness,” according to officials.
Etienne Allonce pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud in Central Islip before U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco. Allonce, who is being held without bail, faces between 37 and 46 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
Before his plea, Allonce briefly read an account of his actions and answered questions from Bianco about the case.
In the scheme that lasted from 2003 to 2007, Allonce’s wife, Helene Michel, went into more than a dozen nursing homes on Long Island, posing as a doctor, nurse, wound-care specialist or medical supplier, officials said.
She would then go through patients’ files, getting confidential information on more than 1,000 patients, including Social Security and Medicaid numbers. Then she and Allonce would submit phony invoices in the patients’ names for reimbursement for wound-care or other health-care products through their then-Hicksville company, Medical Solutions Management, officials said.
Michel was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2013 after being convicted of conspiracy, health-care fraud, and illegal disclosure of individual’s health information.
When Michel was sentenced by Bianco, the judge noted, what he called the “brazenness” of the scheme, including one bill for special boots for a patients who was a double leg amputee above the knee.
At the time, Michel was believed to be one of the first people in the country charged under a federal statute that made the misuse of confidential medical records a felony, officials said. The law is known as HIPAA for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Allonce was indicted at the end of 2007 along with his wife, but fled before he could be arrested, officials said. He was placed on the Most Wanted list of the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.
U.S. State Department personnel located Allonce in his native Haiti in 2018, and the Haitian government expelled him into the custody of U.S. Marshals. Officials did not disclose how Allonce was tracked down.
When Allonce was arrested, Eastern District prosecutor Charles Kelly said: “There is an epidemic of ID theft and much of it comes out of health-related [schemes].”
Allonce’s attorney, federal public defender Randi Chavis, declined to comment afterward, as did Kelly.