[NY Daily News] – A Bronx woman who committed one of the borough’s biggest ever case of benefits fraud got off with five years’ probation Tuesday after paying back a hefty chunk of cash.
Parvattie Raghunandan, a Guyanese immigrant who misrepresented her family’s income for a decade — netting thousands in fraudulent Medicaid payments — received the jail-less sentence in Bronx Supreme Court after paying back over US$85,000 and pleading guilty to grand larceny.
The fraudster had received well over US$50,000 in city Medicaid benefits between 2006 and 2013, court papers state, even though her family was far above the poverty line.
A spokesman for the city Human Resources Administration, whose data crunchers started the probe, said that no one in the agency could recall a bigger case of Bronx benefits fraud.
Raghunandan’s husband, Ramesh, owns two buildings in the borough and another in Pennsylvania, according to state records.
The family also runs an electrical contracting business on Morrison Ave. in Soundview and shared a joint bank account worth over $100,000, investigators found.
Raghunandan’s lawyer, Todd Spodek, said that many new immigrants sign up to receive benefits without fully understanding the requirements.
“Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common in immigrant communities,” he said. “Often families in need of assistance are not provided adequate guidance as to the disclosure requirements for Medicaid and other subsidized welfare programs.”
City data heads had flagged Raghundandan’s case as bizarre and worth investigating because she had only applied for Medicaid and not other types of benefits common for her family size and income, officials said.
But Spodek argued that HRA’s data analysis “fails to take into consideration the human component and leads investigators into believing inadvertent mistakes are evidence of actual fraud.”