The estate of Helen Sieger, the former deceased owner of the 400-bed Kingsbridge Heights Rehabilitation and Care Center in the Bronx, New York reached a $2.5 million settlement in June 2013 with the Attorney General’s office for defrauding Medicaid. According to the settlement, $1.2 million will go towards reimbursing Medicaid, and $1.3 million will go towards damages sought by the state.
Sieger took over the Kingsbridge Center, one of the largest nursing facilities in the Bronx, in the mid-1990s. In, 2008, workers at the home went on strike after Sieger refused to pay their health care insurance premiums. The strike drew the national attention of labor leaders and lawmakers, including Barack Obama, who was then a senator from Illinois. In 2009, a year after the much-heated labor dispute, Sieger was arrested and charged with bribing Frank Rivera, a former social worker at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, to direct his clients to use her facility.
According to the Attorney General’s office, Sieger agreed to pay Rivera $1,000 for every 10 patients he referred to her facility. Investigators revealed that Rivera, who later pled guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges, received $19,750 in payments over a four year period. However, after her arrest in 2009, Sieger broke her bail agreement and fled to Florida, where authorities later arrested her in a Miami motel room. Sieger died in 2011 while she was still in custody. In 2009, the New York State Department of Health, citing leasing issues, formally removed Sieger as the owner of Kingsbridge. The ownership of the nursing home was subsequently transferred to a state receiver.
Former Bronx assemblyman Michael Benjamin said that the settlement with Sieger’s estate, which discovered a Montana bank account of $2 million, was necessary “to recoup ill-gotten gains.” He further added, “It sends a signal that the state will not be cheated. And that people who steal from the poor and from the elderly will be pursued whether they’re dead or alive.”
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, whose Medicaid Fraud and Control Unit (MFCU) investigates allegations of companies who overbill Medicaid, stated, “There are few programs as sacred and important to our most vulnerable citizens as Medicaid. So, when we have a case involving a criminal scheme that robs Medicaid, our prosecutors will do whatever it takes to restore those stolen funds–whether that criminal is alive or we’re forced to settle with their estate.”
An attorney for Sieger’s estate said that Sieger’s family is “pleased to have this matter behind it.”
Website Resource: New York State Gets $2.5 Million in Medicaid Fraud Case, NY Times, Winnie Hu, June 11, 2013