An upstate man accused earlier this month of running a Medicaid mill in the South Bronx was hit with a class action lawsuit Monday by a Harlem couple who said his organization tricked them into getting unnecessary medical tests in order for them to get cheap — nonexistent — housing.
Ramon Rodriguez and Megan Compton say in court papers that they, like thousands of others, were told by Joseph Wright’s Assistance by Improv II, Inc. that to qualify for cheap housing they had to undergo “invasive physical and psychological examinations” to “ensure accurate placement.”
“They had been looking six months for a home. They were desperate,” said their lawyer, Daniel Szalkiewicz.
He said they were “uncomfortable” about undergoing the process but anxious to move, so they shared their medical insurance information and underwent the preliminary medical tests. Szalkiewicz said Compton suffers from multiple sclerosis and ABI told the couple they could qualify for specialized housing as a result.
A day before they were to undergo mandatory psychological exams, he said, the couple saw on television that Wright, 52, of Middletown, N.Y., had been arrested by the state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for running a Medicaid mill.
Schneiderman’s investigators had found that ABI, which widely advertises its alleged access to affordable housing, had duped thousands of poor New Yorkers into taking unnecessary medical exams as a prerequisite to qualifying.
They said that in one eight month period, ABI’s eight providers submitted 125,000 claims, billing Medicaid for more than $10 million in services.
In addition to charging Medicaid tens of millions of dollars for unnecessary tests, ABI charged its clients $500 for a security deposit and $500 for the first month’s rent.
“It’s a real scam. A thousand dollars is a lot to my clients. Why do they have to scam my guys for $1000 when they’re already scamming the government for millions?” Szalkiewicz asked.
Schneiderman accused Wright of stealing $5 million and Medicaid fraud.
The new civil lawsuit targets ABI, Wright and three of his colleagues: Hamood Maalik, James Atkins and Todd Wright.
Wright could not be reached for comment. All the numbers associated with ABI are out of service and he did not return a message left on his cell phone.
Wright’s criminal lawyer, Robert Didio of Queens, said his client has pleaded not guilty and “we intend to litigate the case to its fullest.”
Wright, who is being held at Rikers on $500,000 bail, is due back in court in that case on July 19.
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