SYRACUSE, NEW YORK — A licensed New York hearing aid dispenser and owner of Syracuse Hearing Aid Centers, LLC, was arrested Monday morning on charges that he operated a criminal scheme. According to a news release on November 23rd, the business is alleged to have fraudulently billed more than $1.6 million by selling public employees custom fit earbuds, but then billing the state insurance for hearing aids—worth more than three to ten times as much.
A grand jury indictment charged Joshua Miller, age 37, with first and second-degree grand larceny and first-degree healthcare fraud.
The business owner’s scheme lured hundreds of state employees into his criminal enterprise which was breathtaking in its scope, duration and pretense”
–Leahy Scott, New York Inspector General
Referral Fees, False Claims
In the course of investigation, the New York Inspector General’s office discovered that between May 2012 and December 2014, Miller solicited hundreds of state employees with promises of high quality earbuds or electronic hearing protection devices—all with no out-of-pocket expenses.
The individuals who came to Miller’s office were provided with either the Tunz Custom Audio Monitor earbuds or Audibel SoundGear or Magnum Ear electronic earplugs, which are marketed to hunters and sport shooters. After being fit with the devices, the company then billed United Healthcare insurance for $3,000 per ear—the maximum amount allowed for a hearing aid under the Empire Plan for NY state employees.
Most of the state employees that came to Miller’s office were solicited by a corrections officer who recruited his coworkers in the prison system, as well as the Upstate Medical University hospital. Miller is said to have paid the officer nearly $70,000 in referral fees.
Fraudulent charges of hearing aid fittings for relatives of those seen at Miller’s office were also discovered, when in fact, no devices were ever provided.
A total of 575 allegedly fraudulent claims were billed through United HealthCare, amounting to $1.65 million dollars.
“This is a substantial fraud and theft perpetrated on the taxpaying citizens of the State of New York. As I have made clear on numerous occasions, stealing from taxpayers will be met with aggressive investigation and prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.” –Onondaga District Attorney, William J. Fitzpatrick
Miller was sent to the Onondaga County Jail on Monday, after being arraigned on the indicted charges.
According the Inspector General’s office, further arrests are expected in coming days of those who may have also knowingly been involved in the fraudulent billing scheme.