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Home health aides for 102-year-old woman left in lurch after home care exec bilked NY State medicare for $11M
The New York Daily News - 1/19/2019
Jan. 19--The health and welfare of a 102-year-old Queens woman hangs in limbo after the head of a home health care company was charged with embezzling an estimated $11 million of state Medicaid money -- then used her ill-gotten gains to treat herself and her NYPD cop hubby to fancy cars and a Cape Cod getaway they dubbed "Rich at Heart."
Farrah Rubani, 51, the high-flying CEO of Hopeton Care on Coney Island Ave. in Midwood, Brooklyn, touts her service "For a better quality of life" -- but that slogan appears to apply primarily to herself.
Rubani was indicted by the New York attorney general's office Dec. 13 for using the company to bilk the state health program of millions by submitting false claims and bribing some family members to look the other way over bogus billing.
As a result of the criminal investigation and the civil suit, the AG froze Hopeton's assets -- which threw the lives of hundreds of home health care aides across the five boroughs into chaos.
Suddenly the workers -- who care for the sick and elderly -- couldn't get paid. But even as their salaries disappeared, the demand for their services did not.
Caregiver Lydia Campbell, one of two women employed by Hopeton to tend to Queens centenarian Rose Lawson, spent Christmas and New Year's wondering when her check would arrive.
The other caregiver who worked with her, who asked to be referred to only as Joan, was in the same boat.
Now they are both forced into an impossible choice: continue to work for free, or abandon Rose -- who turned 102 on Jan. 4 -- and let her fend for herself.
"I can't work without pay," said Joan, who stays at the house for four days a week giving Rose 24-hour care. Campbell stays with her the other three days.
"We don't want to leave," Joan said. "I don't want to leave her, but my hands are tied."
Patricia Murphy, Rose's only relative, lives in Texas. She relies on Campbell and Joan to keep her aunt in good condition.
"I told her, 'I got you. All you have to do is eat, sleep and breathe and I'll take care of the rest,'" Murphy said. "I have to protect her. I'm all she's got."
Since Hopeton's assets were seized, Murphy's had to dig into her own pocket to come up with $180 a day to contribute to Rose's care -- even though her aunt qualifies for a suite of social services on top of her pension and her Social Security check. But Murphy can't keep it up anymore, and that puts Campbell and Joan in a no-win situation.
And the two women are not alone in their predicament.
On Friday, just after 9 a.m., dozens of distressed home health care aides packed the hallway outside Hopeton's office at 1122 Coney Island Ave., clamoring for their money.
"They lying every Friday," said Yolene Jean-Charles, who has been working at the company for five years.
"Last Friday, the guard tell us something, 'Oh, everything will be OK. Come [back] Monday.' I come Monday, no check. I come yesterday, they say come today. You know I have to walk 12 blocks because I don't want to lose one ride, one fare, because I spend too much money for MetroCard. So today, I have to walk and take bus because I have no money. It makes me sick," she said.
Staffers inside the building declined to speak to a Daily News reporter -- and later called the police on the frustrated workers outside.
Kettly Desir, 48, who has been working for Hopeton for a year, said she's struggling to pay her bills, but she's still devoted to her patient.
"I just borrow money from my father to pay rent," she said. "And because the patient's family loves us, he wants me together with the patient. Oh, we go every week, we love the patient. Even if we don't have pay, we go every week. We go to the patient."
The attorney general's office said that they have released funds on two different occasions to Hopeton so that the home health aides could be paid, but it hasn't been enough.
The workers are angry at the company, but also they've taken state authorities to task for not keeping them in the loop.
The attorney general's office spokeswoman said that any complaints should be handled through the Medicaid managed care organization, if they know who that is.
That's not good enough for Murphy. The devoted niece will fly up from Texas over the weekend spitting mad over corruption and the bureaucratic nightmare.
"They all need to be investigated, from the accounted to the CEO and if it doesn't check out, then they need to go to jail because there are elderly people caught in the middle," she said.
Meanwhile, Rubani, who goes by many aliases, sits in a Rikers Island jail, where she's been deemed a flight risk.
According to a lawsuit filed by the AG's office in December, Rubani and her partners billed New York State Medicaid for home care for children when was none provided, then paid the kids' parents to stay quiet.
"Rubani misrepresented to parents ... that the Medicaid program permitted Hopeton to pay them directly to care for their children instead of sending a nurse, notwithstanding the fact that these parents were not qualified to provide the nursing services that their children required," the AG said in the civil suit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.
State investigators found that Rubani stole nearly $4 million in that scheme alone. Her husband, 50th Precinct NYPD Officer Richard Tricario, then allegedly spent the money on a $250,000 Bentley, a $60,000Dodge Ram pickup and the $1.8 millionCape Cod vacation home.
Although Tricario has not been charged criminally, the AG's office maintains that he wrote nearly $3 million in checks on the couple's joint bank account between 2016 and 2018.
Rubani's lawyer, Richard Harrow, said his client "denies the allegations and looks forward to presenting evidence that will exonerate her."
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