A sixty-year-old social worker, Enock Mensah, from Fort Lee, New Jersey, received a guilty verdict from a federal jury in Brooklyn on Tuesday. The social worker was found guilty of public benefits theft and healthcare fraud. He faces up to 10 years in prison when sentenced by the US District Judge.
Mensah, was a part of the New York State Early Intervention Program (EIP), that provides remedial services to developmentally delayed children. He was found guilty of embezzling funds for nearly five years and to the tune of over $174,000, meant for facilitating the treatment of children with special needs under the program.
Disservice to public and abuse of trust
"Mensah was more interested in lining his pockets than serving the developmentally delayed children and their families who depend on social work services," said Richard P. Donoghue, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement. Emphasizing on the verdict's importance, he added that it will serve as a deterrent to those who attempt to defraud public benefit programs.
Margaret Garnett, Commissioner, New York City Department of Investigation (DOI), commended and thanked the US Attorney's Office for its role in prosecuting Mensah, and for aiding the DOI in the investigation.
Elaborating on the seriousness of Mensah's crime, Garnett said, "Early intervention therapies are essential to the progress of young developmentally disabled and delayed children. The defendant, convicted today of fraud and other charges, chose greed over honesty – accepting public money as if he had provided these crucial services and pocketing those funds for himself, denying children and their families care that would help them reach important developmental milestones."
The Modus Operandi
Mensah's misappropriation run lasted from August 2013 to October 2018. He unlawfully charged EIP and Medicaid for over 1,700 therapy sessions that were never conducted. This led to the theft over $29,000 in New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene funds and over $145,000 in Medicaid funds.
The testimony of several parents of children with special needs shed light on his methods. They testified that Mensah had not provided any therapy sessions to their children— though he had presented documents claiming to have done so, and submitted claim forms to the health care agencies seeking payment.
A parent with an autistic child testified that Mensah had billed her for two therapy sessions while she was away in the Dominican Republic at the time of those billings. He is also said to have persuaded some of the parents into signing blank forms and forging the signatures of some.