Owner of 2 clinics jailed for 7 years in $55M fraud scheme

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A New York clinic owner has been sentenced to seven years in jail for her role in a $55 million fraud scheme.

The owner of two medical clinics in Brooklyn, New York, will serve seven years in prison for her role in a $55 million health fraud scheme.

Valentina Kovalienko, 47, of Brooklyn, was sentenced Friday and also ordered by a U.S. District Court judge to forfeit more than $29 million, according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice. She is the owner of Prime Care on the Bay LLC and Bensonhurst Mega Medical Care PC.

RELATED: Medicaid agencies struggle to stop payments to healthcare providers accused of fraud

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Kovalienko pleaded guilty in October 2015 to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. As part of her guilty plea, she admitted that her co-conspirators paid cash kickbacks to patients to induce them to attend her two medical clinics to undergo physical and occupational therapy or diagnostic tests and for office visits.

RELATED: State agencies lead fight against Medicaid fraud

She also admitted that she submitted fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid for services induced by those kickbacks or that were unlawfully provided by unlicensed staff. Prosecutors said she wrote checks from the clinics’ bank accounts to third-party companies, which purported to provide services to the clinics, but which in fact did not provide services. Payments were used instead to generate the cash needed to pay the illegal kickbacks to patients, the Justice Department said.

In addition to Kovalienko, 20 other people have pleaded guilty in the case, including the former medical directors of the two clinics, six physical and occupational therapists, three ambulette drivers, the owner of several of the sham companies used to launder the money and a former patient who receive kickbacks, according to the announcement.

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