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Queens Chronicle

Investigators probe NYFAC, Howard Beach-based autism agency

Audit underway; longtime fraud prosecutor a leader of the probe

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Posted: Monday, October 15, 2018 4:34 pm

An investigation is underway at New York Families for Autistic Children, a Howard Beach nonprofit group, and an interim CEO has been appointed to lead the organization. Services for the group’s clients continue, according to attorney Jerry Solomon, one of the lead investigators.

Solomon, an attorney with the firm Barclay Damon, confirmed Monday that his company had been hired to do the investigation but would not say what the subject or the targets are.

“There is an investigation,” Solomon said Monday. “The board received an allegation and hired our firm to conduct that investigation regarding the allegations they received. I can’t comment on what the allegations are.”

Solomon, however, has 25 years’ experience prosecuting Medicaid fraud as a former regional director for the state Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. 

“As Regional Director of MFCU’s nine-county Rochester Office, Jerry directed the investigation and prosecution of white-collar fraud involving the New York State  Medicaid program and third-party insurers,” his profile on Barclay Damon’s website says.

After being hired by the NYFAC executive board, the law firm hired The Bonadio Group, an accounting firm, to audit the organization.

“They have a great deal of experience with the … OPWDD, the oversight agency for this facility,” he said, referring to the state Office for People with Developmental Disabiliites. “It’s a firm that OPWDD has used before and is well-respected by that agency. 

“They are conducting an audit, and we’ve gone into this investigation with an open mind. We’re going to see where it takes us. We can’t really comment on what the allegations are or who the targets are because it would a disservice to both the agency and also to any individual who may be the subject of the allegation.”

Founded in 1998, NYFAC provides clinical and support services and recreational activities to assist people with autism and their families.

“Providing support, education, recreational and socialization programs is just a small facet of what we do,” the organization says on its website. “Working together with professionals in the field, amazing, dedicated parents, grandparents and other family members, we innovate. We design cutting-edge programs that challenge our individuals to learn, develop and grow to maximize their full potential.”

The status of longtime NYFAC President and CEO Andrew Baumann was unclear and was not something Solomon would address. Steve Freeman has been named the agency’s interim CEO. 

“He is an individual, again, with a great deal of experience, down in the New York area,” Solomon, who works out of Barclay Damon’s Rochester, NY, office, said of Freeman. “He’s headed agencies, upward of $20 million agencies — because we want to make sure that during the course of this investigation that the quality of service continues without disruption for the clients. They are the main concern of the board, the main concern of the agency, one of our main concerns. He was brought in not to do the investigation but to make sure that the facility runs properly during the course of this investigation.”

Freeman and Cheryl Lynn Marsh, the NYFAC executive board chairperson, could not immediately be reached for comment. Neither could Baumann.

Solomon would not comment on claims the Chronicle has heard, such as whether the locks on NYFAC’s building at 164-14 Crossbay Boulevard have been changed.

“We took whatever steps were necessary to protect both the quality of services and patient records,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Asked about another claim, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had “raided” the building sometime over the last few days, Solomon would only say, “There are rumors and then there are crazy rumors. As far as I know, we — the board are the only ones conducting an investigation.”

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1 comment:

  • lucylips posted at 2:34 pm on Wed, Oct 17, 2018.

    lucylips Posts: 15

    i quess he won't be driving that BENZ anymore.shame on tgese people that rip off the city constantly they need to know "money makes a blind man see"