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Torres assists in ABI shut down, CEO arrest

Torres, along with the attorney general’s office, was instrumental in the shutting down of the Assistance by Improv office.
Bronx Times
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A Bronx councilman recently played a major role in shutting down a Bronx medical office for participating in a Medicaid fraud scheme.

Assistance by Improv II, a non-profit organization whose mission was to provide quality of life services to displaced individuals, was shuttered last week, after the organization’s CEO, Joseph Wright, was arrested for allegedly stealing over $5 million from Medicaid, thanks in large part to the involvement of Councilman Ritchie Torres.

According to a press release from attorney general Eric Schneiderman’s office, the 52-year old Wright, a resident of Middletown, NY, was arrested in June, after he and Assistance by Improv II allegedly submitted over 125,000 claims to Medicaid in an eight-month span. As a result, Medicaid paid Wright $5 million.

Wright’s arrest was also the result of allegedly ‘giving out Section 8 vouchers and apartments’, according to Torres’ office.

Torres explained that his office first became aware of Access by Improv II in 2014, when the 48th Precinct complained about the long lines of clients waiting outside for assistance at its first location at 471 E. Tremont Avenue.

Assistance by Improv II contacted Torres’ office, claiming that they were being harassed by the 48th Precinct, requesting the councilman’s support.

Assistance by Improv II then moved to another Bronx location, 953 Southern Boulevard, to avoid further confrontation with the 48th Precinct.

When Torres’ office checked with the NYC Human Resources Administration, it found out that Assistance by Improv II had no contracts with the city and never made any referrals to Medicaid, which caused Torres to refer the concern to Governor Cuomo’s office, who eventually launched an investigation.

According to Torres’ office, the office that Assistance by Improv II was operating out of (953 Southern Boulevard) has now been shut down.

Schneiderman’s office confiscated the firms documents when they closed the office.

The AG’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit also executed a search warrant at 953 Southern Boulevard after the arrest of the owner.

The AG’s investigation has not received any evidence that any of Assistance by Improv II’s patients ever received housing, although they participated in various and unnecessary medical examinations and medical tests.

“I suspected that this organization was not as it seemed, and we began to look into its practices,” said Torres. “I am relieved that Joseph Wright has been arrested. This arrest will prevent Bronx residents from future abuse and hopefully return taxpayer dollars to the Medicaid system.”

Wright was charged with grand larceny in the first degree, health care fraud in the first degree (both class B felonies) and insurance fraud in the second degree.

Wright’s case is currently ongoing in the Bronx Supreme Court, after he was arrested in June.

Assistance by Improv II could not be reached for comment.

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com.

Posted 12:00 am, August 7, 2016
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