A lawyer from Bethpage was charged with bribery Wednesday in an insurance fraud scheme involving confidential patient information sold by employees in New York City's public hospitals, according to the city's Department of Investigation.
The hospital employees received money for giving patient information to personal injury lawyers, who used that information to lure patients into receiving unnecessary treatment and then submitted more than a million dollars in phony personal injury claims to insurance carriers, according to undercover investigators from the DOI and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office.
"These arrests revealed a network of schemers charged with trafficking in confidential patient information from city hospitals for personal profit," said DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn in a news release.
William Hamel, 45, of Bethpage, an attorney with the Manhattan law firm of Dinkes & Schwitzer, was charged with third-degree bribery Wednesday. If convicted, he would face up to seven years in prison. Hamel paid hospital employees for confidential information and then used it to solicit clients, according to Cuomo's office.
A message left at Hamel's office was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Among the six HHC employees and one former HHC employee charged Wednesday with third-degree bribe receiving and the misdemeanor charge of official misconduct were a licensed practical nurse, two nurse's aides, a clerical associate and a housekeeping aide, all at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx; an associate supervising radiographer at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx; and a former hospital care investigator at Lincoln who is now a state parole officer.
The employees charged will be suspended without pay.
The officer has been suspended without pay pending an investigation, according to the state Division of Parole.
"This strong and decisive action by the attorney general to bring criminal charges against individual employees who allegedly acted against our interests and without our knowledge reinforces our zero-tolerance policy related to the misuse and abuse of confidential patient information," HHC president Alan Aviles said in a news release.