Update: Owner Of Counseling Center In Paramus Admits $700,000 Health Care Fraud

UPDATE: The owner of a counseling and mental health center in Paramus admitted Tuesday that she scammed private insurers out of $700,000 by billing for patients who either were out of the country, had stopped coming or were never there in the first place.

Maria P. Cosentino

Maria P. Cosentino

Photo Credit: / FACEBOOK

Bergen Alliance Counseling Services served children, families, couples, and adults, but Maria P. Cosentino, 60, of Garfield admitted on March 19 in U.S. District Court in Newark that she also took care of herself.

Cosentino (photo above) ran the health care fraud scam at Bergen Alliance for 5½ years by "making up visits for counseling and other treatments out of whole cloth," U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said.

Among the hundreds of bogus claims were 74 that Cosentino submitted for two people who weren't serviced because they'd gone abroad and then stopped attending sessions, a complaint filed by the FBI in U.S. District Court in Newark says.

Cosentino also submitted 222 claims for services that were intended for but never provided to an employee at the practice and another 38 for relatives of that employee and another, it says.

Cosentino had one of the employees "backdate and submit claims for months’ worth of counseling sessions that never occurred," Sellinger said.

The employee was also directed to submit one year's worth of backdated claims at a time.

At one point, the complaint says, Cosentino had the employee bill for two counseling sessions a week for certain patients "in order to keep the practice in business -- even if those patients had not received two counseling sessions in a given week."

"Everyone ends up bearing the cost of these scams, which drain billions of dollars annually from the healthcare industry," FBI Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said.

Cosentino took a deal from the government rather than risk a more severe sentence were she convicted at a trial.

She pleaded guilty on March 19 in Newark to health care fraud conspiracy.

U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden scheduled sentencing for July 23.

Sellinger credited special agents with the FBI in Newark for the investigation leading to the guilty plea secured by Assistant U.S. Attorney DeNae Thomas of his Health Care Fraud Unit.

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