ALBANY — A Ticonderoga man who operated a cab company that defrauded the federal government of hundreds of thousands of dollars through a Medicaid kickback scheme pleaded guilty to federal charges Tuesday for his role in a massive fraud conspiracy focusing on transportation of the indigent to medical appointments.
Arshad Nazir, 54, pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud Medicaid and conspiring to pay bribes and kickbacks to Medicaid beneficiaries, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albany.
He admitted to causing at least $550,000 in Medicaid program losses through false filings, and to paying at least $95,000 in bribes and kickbacks. In all, his company received $2.45 million in Medicaid payments between 2014 and 2018, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Nazir, whose company was known as Avalanche Taxi Co., faces up to 10 years in federal prison when sentenced June 18 by U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy. He also will be required to make $550,000 restitution.
A Whitehall man, Anthony C. Armstrong, 29, of Whitehall, pleaded guilty last fall in U.S. District Court to counts of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States for his role in assisting Nazir and two other Ticonderoga cab company owners for whom he worked as they ripped off the Medicaid program.
According to prosecutors, Nazir admitted that he committed a variety of fraudulent acts involving Medicaid and the state Department of Health, including:
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- Billing Medicaid and receiving payment for trips where beneficiaries drove themselves to their own medical appointments
- Falsifying the identities of the drivers for those trips.
- Billing Medicaid and receiving payment for round trips to and from medical appointments when the beneficiaries took only one-way trips with Avalanche Taxi.
- Falsifying pick-up and drop-off locations in order to increase the purported distances traveled and therefore be able to claim and receive higher Medicaid payments.
Nazir also admitted that he agreed to pay kickbacks and bribes to Medicaid beneficiaries in order to get the beneficiaries to schedule and keep scheduling medical transportation appointments with Avalanche Taxi. Those kickbacks included cash, cigarettes and tobacco, and free goods at Nazir’s convenience store in Ticonderoga.
His lawyer, Kevin O’Brien, said Nazir ran a legitimate taxi business for years, but when others moved into town and used fraudulent practices to take his business, he followed.
“He was trying to do the right thing,” he said. “He regrets his decision, and we’re hoping for minimal prison time when he is sentenced.”
Charges are still pending against others who were involved in the scheme, including four other Ticonderoga cab company owners, Qaiser “Kaz” Gondal, 46; Khalid M. Chadder, 49; Waqas Nauman, 37; and Khurram Gondal, 39.
Gondal operated Ti Taxi, Chadder ran Adirondack Taxi & Limo and Nauman and Khurran Gondal operated Green Mountain Medical Transportation. They have pleaded not guilty to federal charges.
They were among 13 people arrested in a series of raids of cab companies and convenience stores in the Ticonderoga area last May. Charges are still pending in Essex County against six others who were alleged to have been involved in the kickbacks to a lesser degree.