Defendants Fraudulently Ran Medical Clinics and Related Medical Supply and Ambulette Companies, While Paying Elderly People to Act as Patients, and Billing for Unjustified or Non-Existent Medical Goods and Services
Friday, November 17, 2017
A.G. Schneiderman Announces Indictment Of Unlicensed Plastic Surgeon And Licensed Physician Charged With Illegally Performing Over 60 Plastic Surgeries
After Losing His Medical License, Brad Jacobs Allegedly Engaged In A Four-Year Scheme To Illegally Perform Over 60 Plastic Surgeries And Many Other Additional Procedures In Manhattan With Licensed Physician Nicholas Sewell
Jacobs And Sewell Are Also Charged With Causing Permanent Disfigurement To One Patient; If Convicted, Defendants Face Up To 25 Years Each In Prison
Schneiderman Issues Tips To Protect New Yorkers From Falling Victim To Unlicensed Physician Schemes
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the arrests of unlicensed plastic surgeon Brad Jacobs, 56, of Westbury, NY, and licensed physician Nicholas Sewell, 74, of Jackson Heights, NY, on charges they engaged in a four-year scheme to illegally perform plastic surgeries on over 60 patients, including causing permanent disfigurement to one patient. Jacobs, a former plastic surgeon, surrendered his New York medical license in 2007 after the New York State Department of Health charged him with 29 specifications of Professional Medical Misconduct. From September 2012 to June 2016, Jacobs and Sewell allegedly defrauded patients undergoing costly cosmetic surgery procedures – each averaging between $8,000 and $10,000 – by falsely representing that Jacobs was authorized to practice medicine.
“It is unconscionable that an unlicensed surgeon would take advantage of unsuspecting patients like this,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Practicing medicine without a license jeopardizes the lives of New Yorkers, undermines our health care system, and diminishes the work of licensed doctors committed to their patients’ safety and health.”
“The State Education Department's Office of the Professions investigates allegations of illegal practice in more than 50 licensed professions to help protect New Yorkers,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “We are grateful for our continuing partnership with Attorney General Schneiderman and his team of professionals as we work together to ensure the public is protected from the dangers of illegal practice.”
“The doctor-patient relationship is one that is built on trust and when abused can have serious consequences,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “The Health Department is proud to have worked with the Office of the Attorney General to root out those that seek to diminish the responsibility that goes with being a licensed physician. My agency will continue to work to ensure that New Yorkers have access to quality care and will support the Attorney General as he holds these wrongdoers accountable.”
The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that, over the course of four years, Jacobs and Sewell allegedly performed surgeries on over 60 patients, along with scores of additional medical procedures on patients, including Botox and injectables. Many of the individuals allegedly defrauded were either former patients of Jacobs or individuals referred by Jacobs’ former patients.
In order to conceal their illegal activity, the defendants allegedly directed patients to pay either in cash or to write checks payable to a relative of Sewell’s. Checks were then deposited into an account under the relative’s name, although it was completely controlled by Sewell. Sewell then allegedly transferred money from that account to an account under one of Jacobs’ relatives’ names – which was likewise completely controlled by Jacobs. It is alleged that, from the nine witnesses specified in the indictment alone, nearly $50,000 was transferred between the two accounts in an effort to conceal the proceeds of their crimes.
Jacobs was licensed to practice medicine in 1988 and practiced until June 18, 2007, when the New York State Department of Health, Office of Professional Medical Conduct (“OPMC”) invoked its emergency powers to summarily suspend his license and shut down his practice. Jacobs was thereafter formally charged with 29 specifications of Professional Medical Misconduct, including gross negligence, incompetence, and moral unfitness related to his performance of surgeries including breast augmentation, tummy tucks, liposuction, and rhinoplasty.
During the OPMC’s revocation hearing, Jacobs admitted that he could not defend against the charges, and in September 2007, surrendered his license to practice medicine. The Surrender Order entered against Jacobs was extremely restrictive. It not only ordered him to immediately cease the practice of medicine, but it also prohibited Jacobs from representing that he was eligible to practice medicine; providing an opinion as to the practice or application of medicine; occupying, using, or sharing office space in which another physician provides health care services; or sharing or receiving any fee for professional services. Since 2007, Jacobs has remained unlicensed as a physician or as any other medical professional.
Defendant Nicholas Sewell has been a licensed physician in New York State since 1982. In 2011, Sewell procured operating room space at Allure Plastic Surgery, located at 150 East 61st Street in Manhattan. Immediately thereafter, Sewell and Jacobs allegedly began seeing patients and performing surgeries and other cosmetic procedures – falsely representing that Jacobs was authorized to practice medicine.
The Attorney General’s indictment – filed today in New York County Supreme Court – charges Jacobs and Sewell with one count of Assault in the First Degree (a Class “B” felony), one count of Assault in the Second Degree (a Class “D” felony), eight counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a Class “D” felony), nine counts each of Unauthorized Practice of a Profession (a Class “E” felony), two counts of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a Class “E” felony), and one count of Money Laundering in the Fourth Degree (a Class “E” felony).
If convicted, each defendant faces up to 25 years in prison.
Defendants Jacobs and Sewell were arraigned today in New York County Supreme Court before the Honorable Justice Gregory Carro. Jacobs is currently in custody on $4 million bond or $2 million cash bail; Sewell is currently in custody on $2 million bond or $2 million cash bail. The judge also ordered that both defendants surrender their passports.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
In an effort to protect and educate New Yorkers, Attorney General Schneiderman issued the following tips to help avoid falling victim:
- Physicians and Physicians Assistants must be licensed in the State of New York by the New York State Department of Education. If possible, before visiting one of these professionals, confirm their license on the State Education Department's website - Office of the Professions: http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm
- If you are receiving medical treatment out of state, contact that state's respective licensing authority to confirm that the medical professional is in fact licensed to practice that area of medicine.
If you have additional information regarding this matter, please contact the Attorney General’s office at 212-416-8686.
Attorney General Schneiderman thanked the New York State Department of Education and New York State Department of Health for their valuable assistance in this investigation.
Antonia Barrone, a/k/a Mario Vrendenburg Charged Consumers Thousands Of Dollars For Unauthorized Legal Services And Forged Signatures On Legal Documents
Defendant Will Serve 1 ½ To 3 Years In State Prison For Conviction And Pay Nearly $270,000 In Restitution And Penalties
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the sentencing of Antonia Barrone, a/k/a Mario Vrendenburg (“Barrone”), who pled guilty to operating a fake law firm and pretending to be a licensed attorney. Through a civil lawsuit and an extensive investigation, the Attorney General’s office uncovered that Barrone defrauded over 400 New Yorkers out of more than $23,000 over the course of nearly five years. Today, Barrone was sentenced before Albany County Court Judge Honorable Peter A. Lynch to 1 ½ to 3 years in state prison for one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree. Barrone was also ordered to pay nearly $270,000 in restitution and penalties.
In May 2017, the Attorney General’s Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau filed a lawsuit in Albany County Supreme Court against NYS Prisoner Assistance Center, Inc., operating as the NYS Prisoner Assistance Center or NY Parole Aids (“NYSPAC”), and its owner, Barrone. The suit charged Barrone with bilking hundreds of New Yorkers, including prison inmates and their families, out of thousands of dollars to handle administrative parole appeals and other legal matters. The lawsuit alleged that Barrone operated these fraudulent businesses from her home and duped hundreds of consumers by falsely claiming to be an attorney and by misleading consumers to think that the NYS Prisoner Assistance Center was staffed with attorneys.
“Deceiving vulnerable New Yorkers into paying for unlicensed legal services is reprehensible, costing them thousands each and jeopardizing their rights,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office won’t hesitate to prosecute those who defraud New Yorkers by practicing without a license.”
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci said, “I commend Attorney General Schneiderman for the successful prosecution in this case, as well as the hard-working attorneys with the Board of Parole for their conscientious and painstaking assistance in helping to bring to justice this unscrupulous individual, who otherwise would have continued to take advantage of inmates and their families during a particularly vulnerable period in their lives.”
According to papers filed by the Attorney General’s Office, although Barrone is not an attorney, she advertised an array of legal services on the NYSPAC’s website and charged thousands of dollars to provide legal services. The services included filing administrative and judicial appeals on behalf of inmates who were denied parole by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) and representing inmates at administrative hearings and individuals facing criminal charges in various New York State courts. In some cases, Barrone accepted fees but did not perform any services.
Following Attorney General Schneiderman’s lawsuit, in August 2017, the Honorable Gerald W. Connolly of Albany County Supreme Court ordered Barrone and the NYS Prisoner Assistance Center to pay a $244,500 penalty to the State as well as full restitution of $23,427.70 to known consumers who paid for legal services. The judgment also prohibits Barrone and NYSPAC from practicing law without a license or advertising or selling legal or paralegal services.
In addition to the civil lawsuit, the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau launched a criminal investigation into Barrone’s conduct. On October 16, 2017, Barrone was arrested and arraigned in Albany City Court before the Honorable Holly A. Trexler on a felony complaint filed by the Attorney General’s Office charging: five counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class “D” felony; two counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class “D” felony; one count of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class “E” felony; one count of Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, a class “E” felony; and, one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class “E” felony.
According to the Attorney General’s felony complaint and statements made by the prosecutor, between September 1, 2012 and April 30, 2017, Barrone pretended to be an attorney and stole thousands of dollars from the families of inmates who hired her to provide legal representation for their loved ones. In furtherance of her nearly five-year scheme, Barrone filed legal documents with forged signatures and fake notary stamps, wrote letters on behalf of consumers on letterhead bearing the name of the fictitious law firm “Stacchini & Barrone, Attorneys at Law,” and appropriated the name of a licensed attorney, without that attorney’s knowledge.
Also according to the felony complaint, during the course of her scheme, Barrone made use of multiple different names, including Mario Vrendenberg, Antonio Barrone, Mario Stacchini, Mario Helems, T. Helems, and Mark Vredenburg. The prosecutor stated that Barrone and the entities she operated had over 400 clients seeking legal services throughout New York State, including but not limited to Albany, Cayuga, Clinton, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schoharie, Suffolk, Ulster, Warren, and Westchester Counties.
Barrone’s sentence today before the Honorable Peter A. Lynch will run consecutive to a sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years in state prison that Barrone received today before the Honorable Andrew G. Ceresia on an unrelated felony conviction. In addition to the prison sentences issued today in Albany County, Barrone is scheduled to be sentenced in Saratoga County Court before the Honorable James A. Murphy, III to a concurrent term of incarceration on a separate unrelated felony conviction. Combined, Barrone will spend 2 5/6 to 7 years in state prison.
Consumers can check whether an individual is a licensed attorney in New York State by visiting the New York State Unified Court System’s website.
The convictions were the result of a joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Office and DOCCS. Attorney General Schneiderman thanks DOCCS for its valuable assistance in this matter.
Additionally, Attorney General Schneiderman thanks the Board of Parole Counsel’s Office, which uncovered Barrone’s efforts to deceive and bilk families by meticulously going through records and identifying this fraudulent activity. Their findings contributed to the Attorney General's investigation and criminal prosecution.
A.G. Schneiderman Announces Takedown Of National Drug Trafficking Ring That Peddled Deadly Fentanyl Pills Disguised As Oxycodone
Multi-Agency “Operation Blue Death” Results In Arrest Of 10 Individuals Who Allegedly Trafficked Narcotics – Including Heroin And Fake Oxy Pills – From California To Western New York
Takedown Follows AG’s September Public Health Warning On Potentially Lethal, Fentanyl-Laced Pills
Operation Blue Death Marks Latest Development In SURGE Initiative To Curb Opioid Epidemic
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the takedown of a ten-person drug trafficking ring that allegedly trafficked narcotics – including heroin and faux oxycodone pills which contained fentanyl – from California to Western New York.
The 59-count indictment against nine Buffalo residents and their alleged supplier in California details a broad scheme to sell dangerous narcotics throughout Erie and Chautauqua Counties in Western New York. As part of the multi-agency investigation dubbed “Operation Blue Death,” authorities seized 502 pills laced with fentanyl, over 100 grams of black tar heroin, over 130 grams of cocaine, 15 pounds of marijuana, and a 9mm highpoint pistol with 27 rounds of ammunition. The pills – purposely designed to look identical to oxycodone pills – were made from a toxic mix of fentanyl and acetaminophen.
“As we charge in our indictment, these dealers were playing Russian Roulette with New Yorkers’ lives,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Today we’re taking these poison pill traffickers off our streets following an extensive investigation that spanned both coasts. With the opioid epidemic devastating families in Buffalo and across New York, we’ll continue to use every tool at our disposal to tackle the crisis head on.”
State, federal, and local law enforcement agents led by Attorney General Schneiderman’s Organized Crime Task Force, along with the New York State Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), conducted a nearly year-long investigation that included undercover operations, hundreds of hours of covert surveillance, and wiretaps.
Today’s indictment follows Attorney General Schneiderman’s September public health warning in Buffalo regarding the dangerous and potentially lethal faux-oxycodone pills after they were intercepted by authorities. Law enforcement subsequently determined that the pills, which appear virtually identical to the prescription medication oxycodone, actually contain a toxic mixture of the deadly drug fentanyl and acetaminophen. Attorney General Schneiderman explained that the faux oxycodone pills, which were purposely designed to be sold as prescription-strength oxycodone, are extremely dangerous as the unsuspecting user is actually ingesting a potentially deadly quantity of fentanyl, which is fifty times stronger than heroin.
As today’s indictment details, that package, as well as one which contained “black tar” heroin and over ten pounds of marijuana, was one of many allegedly sent from California to Buffalo by defendant Pablo Zambrano. The packages were intended for delivery to Jonathan Rosario and Jonathan Ivan Medina (known as “Tati’), who would allegedly distribute narcotics to Fernando Maldonado (known as “Fendi”), Frank Perez (also known as “Andy”), and others for resale. Various individuals would accept delivery of packages for the trafficking ring after the packages were mailed from California to several addresses in Erie and Chautauqua counties.
As alleged in the indictment, other members of this narcotics conspiracy trafficked cocaine, as well as heroin. During the investigation, more than 130 grams of cocaine were seized from Roger Gonzalez, who sold cocaine along with his cousin, Randy Gonzalez. The pair allegedly obtained the cocaine from Carlos Martinez; Martinez is alleged to also have sold heroin, often laced with fentanyl, on several occasions, using co-conspirators Angel Medina and Anthony Roman as runners to deliver heroin to customers.
DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt stated, “These arrests will make a significant impact in quality of life for residents on the West Side of Buffalo. This year-long investigation alleges defendants enabled addiction by selling heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl disguised as oxycodone pills for their personal gain. By working collaboratively, law enforcement uprooted this organization and placed them behind bars.” SAC Hunt would like to thank those who participated in the investigation and DEA's Charlotte District Office and Riverside District Office for their assistance.
Superintendent George P. Beach said, “With today's arrests, law enforcement is once again sending a strong message that the trafficking of heroin and other illegal drugs will not be tolerated in New York State. The successful conclusion to this investigation is only possible because of the continued collaboration of state, federal and local law enforcement partners, which is necessary to bring down these drug trafficking networks. I commend our members and our partners for their outstanding work.”
Today’s indictment charges ten individuals with a total of 59 felony counts of possession and distribution of narcotics:
Jonathan Rosario – Buffalo, New York
Jonathan Ivan Medina, a/k/a “Tati” – Buffalo, New York
Carlos Martinez – Buffalo, New York
Roger Gonzalez – Buffalo, New York
Randy Gonzalez – Buffalo, New York
Pablo Zambrano - Rialto, California
Frank Perez, a/k/a “Andy” – Buffalo, New York
Angel Medina – Buffalo, New York
Anthony Roman – Buffalo, New York
Fernando Maldonado, a/k/a “Fendi” – Buffalo, New York
“Operation Blue Death” is the latest takedown in the Attorney General’s SURGE Initiative (Suburban and Upstate Response to the Growing Epidemic), a partnership with state and local law enforcement to root out violent gangs and drug dealers. Launched in April 2017, the SURGE Initiative focuses on the communities that have been hardest hit by drug trafficking and drug abuse across New York State. In the months since the SURGE Initiative was launched, the Attorney General’s office has arrested more than 270 dealers across the state.
In total, the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force has now busted more than 35 large narcotics trafficking rings, made more than 1,200 felony narcotics arrests, and seized millions in cash, more than a ton of illegal drugs, and hundreds of firearms since 2011.
Since 2010, Attorney General Schneiderman has launched a multi-pronged strategy to tackle New York's constantly evolving heroin and opioid epidemic, including settlements with health insurers to remove barriers to treatment and enforce Mental Health Parity Laws; the I-STOP system, which has successfully reduced “doctor shopping” by 90%; the Community Overdose Prevention program, equipping law enforcement with naloxone; and more.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Yesterday Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. hosted his annual Puerto Rican Heritage celebration at Bronx Community College. Borough President Diaz honored individuals who have contributed to the growth and promotion of their community and culture.
“This year the people of Puerto Rico have endured, and continue to endure, an unfathomable tragedy. In light of the ongoing struggle to recover I am honored to have celebrated our Puerto Rican Heritage, and I am pleased to see the unwavering support of people from all over the region and how they have come together so quickly to answer the cry for help from our brothers and sisters on the island,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “I offer my heartfelt congratulations to our honorees and to Bronx Community College for hosting this important celebration of Boricua culture and heritage.”
This year honorees include David Franco, FDNY, Chief Inspector; Nicky Marrero, Master Percussionist, FANIA All-Stars; Audrey Puente, Meteorologist, Fox 5 and numerous other individuals and organizations that represent the continue collective effort in our area of expertise to help Puerto Rico.