In a continuing crackdown against hustlers preying on elderly Medi-Cal recipients and defrauding the government program of millions of dollars, the state Justice Department announced Thursday that charges have been filed against two men suspected of taking part in the scam.
Domenic James Fresques, 24, and William Vanderline II, 19, who work as sales representatives for a Covina medical supply firm, were charged with stealing Medi-Cal stickers from two elderly women in Alhambra, officials said. The two men allegedly gained access to the women's homes by posing as Medi-Cal employees, then stole stickers--meant to be exchanged by recipients for medical services--from the unsuspecting women.
State investigators said that, typically, scam artists persuade recipients to hand over their stickers and then sell them to medical suppliers who use them to bill the state for supplies that are often never delivered.
At a press conference Thursday in Los Angeles, Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp described the scam as part of a "statewide explosion" in fraudulent claims on behalf of beneficiaries of the government medical program.
"California's Medi-Cal program for the poor may lose up to $80 million this year to fraudulent billing by medical suppliers," he said.
Noting that Medi-Cal does not send representatives door-to-door, Van de Kamp warned program beneficiaries not to open their doors to people claiming to be employes of the government medical agency.
The escalating incidence of Medi-Cal fraud has prompted the agency--beginning this month--to include warning notices with the monthly mailings of Medi-Cal stickers to the state's 3.2 million recipients.
The attorney general credited quick thinking on the part of the victims and their relatives for the arrests in Alhambra.
Medi-Cal recipient Mary Lee Gonzales, who is legally blind, realized that one of her Medi-Cal stickers was missing soon after the two men left her home. Gonzales' son, Anthony, then flagged down an Alhambra police officer patrolling the area and led the officer to the suspects.
Earlier that same day, another Alhambra woman called police to complain of a similar fraud.
Van de Kamp said his office is investigating 20 fraud cases throughout the state, about a dozen of them involving medical supply companies in the Los Angeles area. Among the firms under investigation is Senior Care Medical Supplies, the company that employs the two suspects, Van de Kamp said.
Fresques and Vanderline have been charged with larceny, burglary, theft and impersonating a government official. If convicted, they could face a maximum six-year prison term, authorities said.