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Freeport woman sentenced in Medicaid fraud scheme

A Freeport woman who stole $75,000 from Medicaid was sentenced Friday to a week in jail, the state attorney general’s office said.

Sonia Ponce, 57, pleaded guilty in March to third-degree forgery and petty larceny, both misdemeanors.

Ponce inflated the amount of care that two relatives received from healthcare aides and pocketed the extra Medicaid funds, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a release.

Nassau County Court Judge Anthony Paradiso also sentenced Ponce to three years’ probation and 150 hours of community service, and ordered her to pay a $1,000 fine, officials said.

Ponce’s attorney could not be reached Friday.

State officials said Ponce “exploited” the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program, a homecare program funded by Medicaid. It allows relatives of physically disabled people to assume full responsibility for their home care by hiring, supervising and firing aides. It paid for the care of two of Ponce’s relatives.

But from December 2011 through April 2014, Ponce used the aides’ personal identification numbers to log them in and out of work when they weren’t working, including when they were out of the country, investigators said.

Authorities said she submitted false timesheets for them. Several times, she intercepted the aides’ paychecks, forged their signatures and cashed the checks, using some funds to pay what the aides were owed and keeping the rest, officials said.

The aides were unaware of the scam, authorities said.

The case had been referred to the state by the Nassau County Department of Social Services.

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