Drug clinic bosses arrested in Mott Haven

The top executives of a prominent, Mott Haven-based drug rehab and transitional housing network are under indictment for bilking nearly $30 million from Medicaid.

A building at the corner of Willis Ave. and 147th Street is part of Narco Freedom, a chain of drug rehab clinics whose CEOs are under indictment.
A building at the corner of Willis Ave. and 147th Street is part of Narco Freedom, a chain of drug rehab clinics whose CEOs are under indictment.

The heads of a Mott Haven-based chain of drug rehabilitation clinics and two local transitional housing facilities were arrested today, charged with stealing millions from Medicaid through multiple scams.

The Attorney General’s Office announced it was indicting the top four executives of Narco Freedom Inc., saying they bilked the federal government of $27 million by forcing patients to come in for drug treatment, even when it wasn’t warranted, in order to cash in on their Medicaid reimbursements. In addition, the four rehab honchos are charged with evicting homeless patients from transitional housing facilities when they refused to comply with phony treatment regimens, committing insurance fraud and setting up shell companies to maximize their profits from the broad-ranging scheme.

Those arrested include the group’s former CEO, Alan Brand, 65, and his son, Jason Brand, 36, along with its current CEO, Gerald Bethea and controller Richard Gross. Alan and Jason Brand were first indicted last October.

In a separate indictment, Jonathan Brand, another son of Alan Brand, and John Cornachio, the brother of a business partner of Alan Brand, were also charged.

Narco Freedom, which opened in the Bronx in 1971, is a non-profit headquartered at 250 Grand Concourse near 138th Street. On its website, it boasts of its experience providing methadone and chemical dependency treatment, primary medical care and social support services. It says it has “extensive experience dealing with government agencies around licensing, rate setting, and compliance with regulations.”

In 1996, the agency expanded to Brooklyn and Queens, but six of the group’s ten clinics are located in Mott Haven, according to the group’s website.

The indictment maintains that the current and former CEOs “controlled and managed” the rehab programs to wring the maximum possible gain out of Medicaid, disregarding patients’ needs. Although the law permits patients to attend treatment and pick up their medications at the clinic at their convenience, Narco Freedom forced patients to come in for treatment five days a week, the indictment states, to maximize reimbursement.

On its website, Narco Freedom says that its scattered site housing program provides varied support services, ranging from “assistance with daily living skills” to “permanency planning.” But the indictment says Freedom Houses are “poorly maintained, making for difficult living conditions. Bed bug infestations are common as are drug dealing and violence.”

The indictment refers to the Brands and their associates as the Brand Criminal Enterprise, and estimates the group syphoned 10 percent of Narco Freedom’s Medicaid billings annually. One method of bilking the system, the indictment states, was done through the creation of a shell company, B&C Management, which billed Narco Freedom hundreds of thousands of dollars in services that were never provided.

Jonathan Brand, who is accused of setting up the phantom B&C Management, and Cornachio “drove luxury vehicles, such as a Porsche 911 Carrera and a Range Rover, paid for and maintained by Narco Freedom, although they did no work for the charity,” the Attorney General alleges.

In addition, Alan Brand allegedly demanded and received $13,000 monthly in personal kickbacks for basing some of the group’s facilities in buildings belonging to a particular real estate developer.

A judge has granted the AG’s office permission to freeze $33 million of the ring’s assets.

Narco Freedom receives nearly $40 million annually in Medicaid reimbursements, the Attorney General’s Office said.

3 thoughts on “Drug clinic bosses arrested in Mott Haven

  1. I have been a patient at this clinic for a few years now. Over the years I have consistently stated that the clinic was a “Sham.” Another way they bilk medicaid is with the anual physicals. The first year I was at this clinic, they had billed twice for my physical. I kept getting “Denial of coverage notices” for these physicals. I took the letters to the site manager and even after that they continued to submit more claims for the same physical. The entire physical consists of a blood and urine test and a blood pressure check and ekg. These bills were for over 12 and 1300 dollars each. when they were denied payment, they would wait a couple of months and try again. THE 2ND year I was there, I opted to have my physical completed through my primary care Dr. I did this and took all of the necessary paperwork to show them. First, they misplaced the paperwork (they claimed). A few months later I was called back and told that I never had my physical. When I to0ld them I* had, they insisted that they did not have the paperwork and told me to retake it there. When I refused and went to my Primary Dr. and got copies of the results from my physical and took them back to Narco Freedom, they told me that I still needed to see the Dr. (their DR.) because my primary Dr. did not “test for syphillis”, I agreed to see the dr. at clinic to have the siphillis test. I insisted that all they needed to do was the siphillis test, I was told that they couldn’t do only a siphillis test. Dr said that had to do the whole thing over again. So, medicaid paid an extra 13 hundred + dollars for me to have two physicals.
    Also the clinic is just a bad place anyway. Half of the couinsellors do not even understand what methadone is or how it works with the human body. Their drug testing is an absolute joke. Half of the clients stand right out in the open and hand urine from one person to the next and the staff says nothing. So many of the people are selling drugs on the premesis. Many of the patients are clearly dangerously intoxicated when they step up to the window. They often bow over asleep while their waiting for their dose. They are clearly drunk and taking other substances and the nurses still dose them. I transferred to this clinic from the West midtown Clinic 9when I moved to the Bronx). The W. Midtown clinic was a whole different ballgame. The place was clean. The security staff was very professional. The counsellors, Doctors and nurses were all very professional and well educated about methadone use and distribution. When I first moved to Nyc In 2008 I first went to the MMTP at Bellevue, which was also very very professional. These clinics are real TREATMENT centers that have an actual mission to help people recover from years of addiction.
    Methadone saved my life and I get really upset when I hear ignorant and uneducated people put MMTP down or when they spread the “age old myths’ about Methadone that have been proven over and over again to be untrue. One of the reasons that people are so blind and/or negative about MMTP programs ( I believe) has alot to do with Clinics like Narco Freedom that will literally give Methadone to any body whether or not they need it or not. They would give Methadone to a Subway Rat if he/she had a medicaid card! Like I said earlier, It was only a matter of time until they got caught. Now, I might suggest this same Distreict Attorney take a good look at one more medical facility called the ‘Bronx Metro Medical Center” on 149 th Street (between 3rd and Brook Avenue and…just around the corner from the Narco Freedom on Willis Avenue! The Dr…..Dr.Khasidi. I am completely sure they will find a bit more Meicaid Fraud! Sincerely, Mr. Larry Shank (A patient at both establishments.

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