SYRACUSE - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the sentencing of Onondaga County resident James T. Pickard for stealing over $541,000 from the Medicaid system. Pickard was sentenced in Onondaga County Supreme Court before Judge Joseph E. Fahey to five years probation and 250 hours of community service.

On June 22, 2011, as a result of the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit's investigation, Pickard entered a plea of guilty to the top count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and a second count of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, admitting that he forged numerous bids as part of a bid-rigging scheme and wrongfully received $541,671.11 in Medicaid payments.

"False and fraudulent bids rob taxpayers and drain scarce resources from valuable programs, in this case, one designed to assist New Yorkers with traumatic brain injuries. Taxpayers will no longer foot the bill when contractors try to fraudulently rig the system and inflate their prices to make an extra buck," Attorney General Schneiderman said. "These are hard financial times for our state, and my office will do its part by uncovering every dishonestly claimed dollar, and holding those who take advantage of New York accountable."

From November 2001 through November 2009, Pickard worked as a self-employed building contractor and vendor in the New York State Medicaid Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver program. The purpose of the program and the competitive bidding process is to obtain environmental modifications for a Medicaid recipient’s home or to provide assistive technological devices to allow the recipient to live independently at home, rather than in an institution. Before any contract amounting to more than $1,000 for environmental modifications or assistive technology can be awarded, the program requires that three bids be obtained.

Pickard rigged the bidding process on dozens of contracts by creating and assembling a series of bids, using letterhead belonging to other contractors. Pickard would submit two high bids, along with his own lower bid, which would then be awarded the contract. Although Pickard performed the work required, he did so at a non-competitive cost to the Medicaid program. The purpose of the bidding process is to obtain competitive pricing which Pickard avoided by submitting his forged and fraudulent estimates.

The audit performed by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit also found that claims for assistive technology and lifeline services were made without following cost rules and regulations.

The audit found that over a period of eight years, Pickard received $541,671.11 to which he was not entitled. Pickard provided the full restitution today as part of a sentence agreement with the court.

This investigation began in Monroe County, where another contractor was bilking the Medicaid program in a similar fashion. While interviewing witnesses in that case, Pickard’s bid-rigging scheme was uncovered. The subsequent audit and investigation which resulted in today’s plea was performed jointly by investigators in the Syracuse and Rochester offices of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, in particular, Senior Special Investigator Michael J. Ostuni, Special Investigator Deborah Clemente, Senior Special Auditor/Investigator Dejan Budimir, Senior Special Auditor/Investigator Jodie Dineen and Special Associate Investigator Jamie Russell-Thomas.

The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Paul R. Berry under the supervision of Syracuse Regional Director Ralph D. Tortora, III.