Narco Freedom pleads guilty to Medicaid fraud

Narco Freedom pleads guilty to Medicaid fraud
Narco Freedom formerly operated at 477 Willis Avenue, before Samaritan Daytop Village took over in 2015.
Community News Group / Steven Goodstein

Narco Freedom is no longer operating clinical and housing programs in the Bronx after an insurance scam unraveled last year.

Now that Narco Freedom trustee Alan Nisselson recently pleaded guilty to the organization stealing millions of dollars from Medicaid, the ten former Bronx Narco Freedom locations have found new sponsors.

According to Narco Freedom’s website, “Narco Freedom is no longer operating clinical and housing programs”, part of a message which is dated September 22, 2015.

The message also says that Narco Freedom has “transitioned its clinical programs in the Bronx to the non-profit alcohol and drug treatment organization Samaritan Village” – which is now known as Samaritan Daytop Village.

“Narco Freedom operated a years-long criminal enterprise that ripped off taxpayers and took advantage of those in need of substance abuse treatment,” said NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Using Medicaid to further one’s bottom line at the expense of those who are struggling with abuse or addiction is shameful.”

Two weeks ago, Narco Freedom pled guilty to one count of enterprise corruption, three counts of grand larceny in the first degree and two counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree in Bronx County Courthouse.

In March 2015, AG Schneiderman’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit charged Narco Freedom and many of its executives with ‘operating a criminal organization that defrauded Medicaid (of $27 million) and syphoned funds meant for its patients for the enrichment of their own lifestyles’, according to the attorney general’s website.

Narco Freedom acknowledged stealing from Medicaid by seeking to be reimbursed for excessive and unnecessary medical services for its patients, as well as violating the rights of its residents. Narco Freedom also admitted to filing false statements with multiple state agencies. These agencies included the NYS Department of Health and the Office of the NYS Attorney General Charities Bureau, in attempts to defraud them.

Previous Narco Freedom Bronx locations are located at 224 E. Tremont Avenue, 1668 Webster Avenue, 528 Morris Avenue, 315 Alexander Avenue, 2640 Third Avenue, 477 Willis Avenue, 250 Grand Concourse, 324 E. 149th Street, 368 E. 148th Street and 401 E. 147th Street.

Narco Freedom also operated locations in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan before being shut down.

Shortly after Narco Freedom ceased all operations, in accordance with an order of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Samaritan Village merged with substance abuse and addiction treatment center Daytop Village in October 2015 – and the organization changed its name to Samaritan Daytop Village.

In January 2016, Narco Freedom filed for bankruptcy.

Daytop Village, which was founded in 1963, already operated at two Bronx locations, 16 Westchester Square and 2800 Bronxwood Avenue, before officially merging with Samaritan Village.

Samaritan Daytop Village location at 4305 Park Avenue operated as Samaritan Village prior to the merger.

“We (Samaritan Daytop Village) have a strong history and respected reputation as a quality health and human services provider,” said a spokesperson from Samaritan Daytop Village. “For more than 50 years, we have been offering a range of health and human services to assist New Yorkers in need, including residents of the Bronx, including substance abuse treatment, health and mental health services, programs for homeless and specialized services for veterans.”

“With a dedicated team of staff, we work with over 28,000 people each year to help them reclaim their lives and become productive members of the community again,” the spokesperson added.

According to Samaritan Daytop Village, the federal court, which has jurisdiction over the case involving Narco Freedom, had appointed a receiver to oversee the operations of the agency and reached out to the organization, asking them to provide an assessment of Narco Freedom’s sites. This assessment included a review of their program operations and quality of services, along with a review of Narco Freedom’s unlicensed housing.

Samaritan Daytop Village also worked with the city and the state to avoid loss of services and housing for the 1,200 patients who resided in the various Narco Freedom locations.

The agency moved over 600 housing clients through the city funded Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program

In total, Samaritan Daytop Village took over two methadone clinics, one mental health clinic, one outpatient substance abuse treatment clinic and one care coordination clinic.

More from Around NYC