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Five plead guilty of defrauding union by falsifying health expenses

Five plead guilty of defrauding union by falsifying health expenses

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Five members of a local union have admitted in federal court to defrauding their organization’s health care benefit plan by submitting false receipts for medical expenses.

The members of Queensbury-based United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 773 pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Albany to health care fraud, according to a news release.

The union offered a health expense benefit, which reimbursed medical costs not covered by insurance. These five men were accused of falsifying receipts for expenses that they did not incur in order to obtain reimbursement. This included chiropractic, dental and rehabilitation services, according to court documents.

Arrested in the case were: Christopher Roberts, 36, of Fort Edward; Earl Graham, 43, of Glens Falls; Jamie Ruggiero, 40, of Lake Luzerne; Shawn Martindale, 43, of Glens Falls; and Torrey Gannon, 47, of South Glens Falls.

Gannon received the most in improper benefits with $22,505, followed by Ruggiero with $15,722; Graham with $14,053; Roberts, $11,500; and Martindale, $3,749, according to a news release.

The defendants pleaded guilty in five separate cases between July 30 and Thursday before Senior U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Kahn.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office put out a news release on Thursday announcing the last of the plea agreements.

The defendants each face up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and a term of post-release supervision of up to three years. They will also be required to pay restitution.

The case was investigated by Acting U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon; Michael Mikulka, special agent in charge of the New York Region of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General; and Carol Hamilton, Boston regional director of the Employee Benefits Security Administration.

“These defendants stole thousands of dollars from their union and, ultimately, from their fellow union members, who depend on the health care fund to pay their medical expenses. We will continue to pursue greedy people who steal from benefit programs and enrich themselves at the expense of others,” Bacon said in a news release.

“The Office of Inspector General will vigorously pursue those who defraud employee benefit plans of funds needed to pay legitimate claims,” Mikula said in a news release.

“Submitting fraudulent health expense claims to obtain reimbursements defrauds not only the health plan, it also breaks trust with other plan participants who depend on the plan for their health care expenses,” EBSA Boston Regional Director Carol Hamilton said in a news release.

Reach Michael Goot at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.

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