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North Jersey counseling center owner admits health care fraud

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This week in Newark federal court, Maria Cosentino, the owner of Bergen Alliance Counseling Services, admitted her role in a health care fraud scheme involving hundreds of false claims.

Cosentino, 60, of Garfield, owned the center. The business provided counseling services and mental health treatment to children, families, couples and adults.

Prosecutors from the US Attorney for the District of New Jersey’s office had charged Cosentino with participating in a health care fraud scheme. She pleaded guilty to the charges March 19 before US District Judge Katharine Hayden.

“She admitted that for years she submitted false claims to private health insurance plans for counseling sessions that she never provided,” according to case documents and court statements released by the US Attorney’s Office. “Cosentino falsely claimed that various individuals had received counseling at the center when in fact they had been out of the country, had stopped attending the practice, or had never visited the counseling center at all.”

False claims

Prosecutors say that even though the individuals never received any treatment, those false claims caused insurance plans to issue reimbursement checks to the center. They noted that Cosentino kept the illicit profits, totaling more than $700,000.

US Attorney for New Jersey Philip Sellinger
Sellinger

“This defendant admitted that she falsified claims in order to increase her payments, in some cases, making up visits for counseling and other treatments out of whole cloth,” said US Attorney for New Jersey Philip Sellinger. “My office is determined to root out those who would try to rig the system for ill-gotten profits.”

FBI Newark Special-Agent-in-Charge James Dennehy stressed that fraudsters compromise the integrity of our health care system – and necessary treatment programs.

“Cosentino now admits he billed private health insurance companies for sessions with patients who no longer attended his practice, were out of the country, or didn’t even exist,” said Dennehy. “We ask if you have any information about similar fraud, call the Newark FBI so we can take action.”

Cosentino faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of either $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from the offense, whichever is largest. Sentencing is scheduled for July 23, 2024.

An attorney representing Cosentino did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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