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DA: Dr. Lawrence Levitan stole insurance money

A Manhattan-based doctor from Lawrence stole more than a quarter-million dollars by diverting his patients' insurance checks to his personal bank account, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Lawrence Levitan, 58, an obstetrician-gynecologist, deposited 685 checks -- half of which were supposed to go to Beth Israel Medical Center -- into his own account between February 2010 and September 2012, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in announcing the doctor's indictment.

A hospital spokeswoman said Levitan has been fired.

Levitan is charged with several felonies: second-degree grand larceny, third-degree grand larceny, three counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, third-degree criminal tax fraud, fourth-degree criminal tax fraud and six counts of first-degree falsifying business records.

His attorney, Alex Bateman of Uniondale, declined to comment.

Levitan was arraigned Wednesday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, where bail was set at $50,000, cash or bond. He was ordered to return to court Monday, when he must either post bail or be remanded to jail, a spokeswoman for Vance's office said.

Court documents say Levitan worked at Beth Israel, where he practiced as a member of the hospital's Faculty Practice Plan (FPP). Under the plan, the hospital and Levitan were required to split payments evenly for patient services made to Levitan's practice.

Levitan handled his own billing, the papers say, submitting bills directly to insurance companies and personally receiving his patients' insurance checks by mail.

He was required to submit the checks to another company, which would keep records and deposit the funds into a Beth Israel account. Beth Israel would then send Levitan's share to him in the form of a paycheck, with taxes and other withholding deducted, prosecutors said.

Levitan instead deposited at least 685 of his patients' insurance checks -- an amount totaling more than $530,000 -- directly into his personal bank account, prosecutors said.

By failing to send those checks to the records company, so the funds could be divided evenly, Levitan stole about $267,000, according to a news release from Vance's office.

"The scheme caused Beth Israel Medical Center to be defrauded out of hundreds of thousands of dollars," Vance said in the release.

Hospital spokeswoman Elizabeth Dowling Steinke declined to answer questions pending the outcome of the court case, but issued a statement saying, "As soon as Beth Israel learned of this matter, we brought it to the attention of the district attorney's office and cooperated fully in their investigation. We also terminated Dr. Levitan's employment and suspended his hospital privileges."

With Ellen Yan


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