2010-10-29 / Top Stories

Solstice Wellness Patient Pleads Guilty

By Nicholas Briano

Solstice Wellness Center in Rockaway Park was raided by federal officials back in May. Solstice Wellness Center in Rockaway Park was raided by federal officials back in May. Yefim Drakhler, one of many patients paid cash kickbacks for visits to the former Solstice Wellness Center in Rockaway Park, pled guilty on Monday at U.S District Court for his involvement in the $2.6 million Medicare fraud scheme, according to the United States Department of Justice.

Drakhler, 74, is among six “over-utilized” or “serial” Medicare beneficiaries who were arrested in July following the raid of Solstice Wellness back in May. Three of those patients, including Drakhler, were from Rockaway and charged for their roles in the scheme that involved filing fraudulent claims for physical and occupational therapy. Each of the defendant beneficiaries allegedly received health care kickbacks for either medically unnecessary services or services not rendered at all, that were then billed to Medicare, according to the complaint.

During his plea hearing at New York Eastern District Court in Brooklyn, Drakhler admitted that from approximately January 2009 to April 2010, he made visits to Solstice Wellness for medical services and that he was paid cash for receiving these services at the clinic. In addition, Drakhler admitted that he received these cash payments in a small room at Solstice Wellness from a man whom Drakhler identified as Dmitry Shteyman, one of the owners of the medical facility.

According to the complaint, approximately $214,516 worth of services from 124 medical providers was billed to Medicare under Drakhler’s Medicare number during a six-year period. Drahkler was over-utilized at other providers as well, not just at Solstice Wellness. The charge of conspiracy to solicit and receive health care kickbacks carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.

Investigators, the joint DOJ-HHS Medicare Fraud Strike Force, is a multi agency team of federal, state, and local investigators designed to combat Medicare fraud through the use of Medicare data analysis techniques and an increased focus on community policing. Law enforcement agents from the FBI, HHS-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), multiple Medicaid Fraud Control Units, and other state and local law enforcement agencies participated in the operations.

Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in seven districts across the country have obtained indictments of more than 825 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

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