A discrepancy has emerged in the office of the New Jersey state comptroller between the controller, Phillip J. Degnan and three levels of managers who work for him. The issue is in regards to the repayment of Medicaid fraud to taxpayers.
Degnan said that one of his employees went rogue by discounting $2.7 million on the repayment while the managers said the office knew about the already knew about the arrangements.
A memo from 2017 presents a conflicting account about the amnesty program offered by the office and adds to the controversy surrounding the program. In 2017, 159 Ocean County Residents came forward and admitted that they received Medicaid benefits that they were not eligible for. Ocean Country is situated along the Jersey Shore and it is where the Lakewood Township is located, where a large community of Orthodox Jews live, worship and learn.
While Degnan has refused to name the person has said was negotiating the deal for restitution payments, sources with knowledge of the amnesty program say it was Andrew Poulos Jr., an employee of the office since 2011. Poulos stopped working for the comptroller’s office in December 12, 2017, the last day a person could submit an application for the amnesty program.
After 26 Lakewood residents, all observant Jews and a prominent rabbi, were arrested on charges alleging they under-reported their incomes to qualify for benefits like food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid, the amnesty program was formed. Another factor according to officials in offering the amnesty program had to do with inadequate investigative means.
The program was financially a success. The office able to raise over $2.2 million – more than four times the amount the office had collected due to criminal prosecutions. However, it never amounted to the $2.6 million because of the lower repayment totals.
Moshe Newhouse, a Lakewood school board member applied for the program and only repaid half of the $48,000 in benefits he received between 2013 and 2015. Newhouse was faced with calls to resign from his position that he still serves under.
While acknowledging flaws in its execution, Degnan has defended the program while conceding flaws in its execution. The program was only open to Ocean County residents and applications were accepted from September 12 to December 12, 2017. Degnan’s office does not use the wordage, “amnesty program.” Degnan said that an internal investigation started when he discovered a staffer had been bargaining for lower repayments and ran contrary to Degnan’s official statements that all benefits received unlawfully must be paid back in full.
However, a memo written by Poulos in late November reports that he had a meeting with three of his superiors after receiving a request to change the terms of the program. That request came from a Lakewood lawyer named Yosef Jacobovitch who represented many of the people who sought amnesty. His proposal was twofold: Either extending the repayment period or allowing the individuals to repay less money sooner.
By: Andrew Schiff
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