Nine New York City physicians and 14 other medical workers have been charged with fraudulently billing Medicaid $7 million dollars in expenses for homeless and poor patients whom they convinced to undergo unnecessary medical testing in exchange for free shoes, Reuters reports.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a statement: “These defendants allegedly exploited the most vulnerable members of our society and raked in millions of dollars by doing so.”
The doctors allegedly offered the “guinea pigs”—as the medical workers referred to the homeless and poor patients they recruited from shelters and welfare centers—a free pair of kicks if they produced a Medicaid card and agreed to have their feet examined. Prosecutors said that in some cases the patients underwent unneeded physical therapy, extensive testing that sometimes lasted days, and were given leg braces and other pieces of equipment they had no use for.
Daniel Coyne, deputy Medicaid inspector general for investigations, told Reuters that by getting the arbitrary testing, the patients’ actual medical problems could have gone untreated.
If convicted, the doctors face up to 25 years in prison.