A New York doctor performed unnecessary surgeries on nearly 200 vulnerable patients, many of whom were extremely poor or homeless, as part of a $31 million insurance fraud scheme, according to federal officials.
Sady Ribeiro, a 72-year-old pain management doctor and surgeon, pleaded guilty to two fraud charges related to a “trip-and-fall” scheme, according to a Sept. 29 release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
“Ribeiro abused his professional license and position of trust by performing medically unnecessary surgeries to increase the value of fraudulent trip-and-fall lawsuits,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said, adding that Ribeiro “preyed upon the most vulnerable members of society.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News.
Patients were referred to Ribeiro by a litigation funding company, which recruited more than 400 people to stage trip-and-fall accidents near potholes, cement cracks and other locations throughout the New York City area, according to the release.
The purported accidents were then cited in lawsuits and insurance claims, and in an effort to bolster their cases, patients were required to undergo surgery with Ribeiro, according to the release.
Ribeiro performed surgeries on almost 200 patients, and they were generally paid between $1,000 and $1,500 upon completion of the surgery, in addition to cash kickbacks for referring others.
Ribeiro’s attorney, Kenneth Abell, told the New York Daily News, “In Dr. Ribeiro’s assessment, [the surgeries] presented zero risk to the individuals and, to his knowledge, no one suffered any adverse effects from them.”
Abell told the publication that “the procedures were minimally invasive and took between five to 10 minutes.”
Abell did not immediately respond to a McClatchy News request for comment.
Often individuals recruited were “extremely poor” and desperate for money, according to the release. Many were enlisted from homeless shelters and lacked basic necessities like warm clothing.
Throughout the course of the scheme, Ribeiro, in addition to the owner of the litigation funding company, Adrian Alexander, attempted to defraud victims of over $30,000,000, the release said.
Ribeiro pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the release said. Alexander, 77, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in August.
As part of his plea agreement, Ribeiro will forfeit $513,005 to the United States and will “make restitution in the amount of $3,928,133,” according to the release. He is scheduled to be sentenced in January.
The total cost of insurance fraud, barring health insurance, is estimated to be $40 billion per year in the United States, according to the FBI.