Greenwich police officer charged in alleged Medicaid scam
GREENWICH — A Greenwich police officer used his elderly uncle to claim more than $50,000 in fraudulent wages from Medicaid, according to his arrest warrant.
Michael Mastronardi, of Shelton, was arrested Wednesday and charged with first-degree larceny by defrauding a public community, conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny by defrauding a public community, health insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit health insurance fraud.
Mastronardi, 45, has been providing care to an aging uncle for more than six years as a part of the Personal Care Assistance program, a federal- and state-funded Medicaid program that allows eligible participants to hire others to assist with their daily care, his arrest warrant said.
But prosecutors believe Mastronardi may have cashed in $57,278 in false claims. The arrest warrant said he claimed to be caring for his uncle for 40-plus hours some weeks, but other paid assistants claimed Mastronardi was barely ever around, let alone helping.
Over six years, five separate personal care assistants filed complaints against Mastronardi, the arrest warrant said. All claimed he rarely helped his uncle in any professional capacity. Instead, he was “seen stopping by to visit,” “talking on the phone” and running errands and taking trips with the Medicaid recipient, usually while other personal care assistants were on the clock, the arrest warrant said.
One employed personal care assistant said she knew Mastronardi was lying about working overnight hours, because she would often find the family member “laying in a soiled bed in the morning,” the warrant said. When she confronted the uncle about the alleged fraud, the warrant said, he threatened her, saying “his nephews were cops and they would come after her if she made a complaint.”
Investigators said Mastronardi was also caught “numerous times” billing Medicaid for hours worked with his uncle when he was actually working for the Greenwich Police Department. During one 11-month period, the warrant said, he billed Medicaid on a total of 24 occasions during time periods that overlapped with times he was working private duty jobs for the department.
In another instance, investigators were tipped off to potential fraud by an article in the Shelton Herald. The article, which announced that Mastronardi and his wife had the first baby born in 2018 at Bridgeport Hospital, directly conflicted with a timesheet that claimed he had been working until midnight, just hours prior. He also billed Medicaid for 42 hours in the ensuing five days, the warrant said.
Video surveillance footage also showed that, on nine separate occasions, Mastronardi was not on site during hours for which Medicaid was eventually billed for the care, which often includes such duties as bathing, dressing or doing laundry for a disabled person, the warrant said.
Mastronardi, an 18-year veteran of the Greenwich force, was placed on administrative leave this week after Greenwich police were “notified by the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney of an ongoing criminal investigation involving him,” Lt. John Slusarz said in a statement.
Slusarz, noting the charges were not related to Mastronardi’s work as a police officer, said an internal affairs investigation will be conducted.
“The police administration recognizes that the officer is entitled to all established due process rights afforded him and, while ensuring the community’s continued public trust in the department, will reserve judgment until such time that a through Internal Affairs investigation has been completed,” said Slusarz.
Mastronardi was honored as the department’s officer of the month for November 2010 after arresting two men allegedly attempting to ripoff senior citizens in a car repair scam, and he helped deliver a baby who arrived early in July 2015.
Despite the charges, Mastronaridi’s uncle is claiming that he was behind the scam, not his nephew.
When interviewed by police, the man admitted that while not all of the Medicaid payments would match to actual hours worked, he begged investigators to focus the investigation on him and not his nephew. He told police that he would plead guilty to everything, the warrant said.
“(He) said he reassured Mastronardi ‘Everything he was doing was OK’ and that M. Mastronardi trusted him, but he betrayed his trust because he knew what he was doing was wrong,” the uncle told investigators, according to the warrant.
One of the assistants who came forward during the investigation admitted that Mastronardi’s uncle would often pay workers for hours they did not work, often by personal check, according to the warrant.
The uncle had not been charged with any crimes as of Friday. Prosecutors said more arrests were expected in the case.
His nephew was released on $100,000 bond Friday afternoon. He is scheduled to appear in Superior Court in Hartford on Aug. 21.
The two charges related to first-degree larceny are considered class B felonies and carry sentences of up to 20 years in prison, while the two tied to health insurance fraud have associated terms of up to five years in prison.