By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK, Oct 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. government has joined
a whistle-blower lawsuit accusing the New York City Department
of Education of billing Medicaid for psychological counseling
services it falsely claimed to have provided to students with
The government's complaint, unsealed Tuesday in Brooklyn
federal court, seeks more than $2 million from the department in
treble damages, penalties and costs under the False Claims Act.
The federal government alleged that between 2001 and 2004,
the department billed Medicaid for psychological counseling
services provided to students, even though it did not provide
the minimum number of sessions required to be eligible for
According to the complaint, the department receives a flat
fee of $223 a month from Medicaid for each student who receives
at least two psychological counseling sessions during that
period. If the student receives fewer, the department gets
The department improperly obtained at least $693,418 in
Medicaid funds through false billings for students who received
fewer than the required number of sessions, the government said
in its complaint.
"We will vigorously investigate and prosecute allegations of
fraud on federal programs, especially in programs where the
intended recipients of services are vulnerable children with
special needs," U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
The Department of Education referred requests for comment to
the New York City Law Department, which said in a statement that
it had not yet seen the complaint but denied any allegations of
"However, the Department of Education takes counseling
services for special needs students very seriously and
cooperated with the U.S. Attorney's investigation," the Law
Department said in a statement.
The original whistle-blower complaint was filed in 2007 by
social worker Dana Ohlmeyer, who has been employed by the
department since 1992 in New York City School District 75. The
original complaint remains under seal.
The case is U.S. ex rel Ohlmeyer v. New York City Department
of Education, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of
New York, No. 07-1517.
For the U.S.: Michael Goldberger.
For Ohlmeyer: Steven Wittels.
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