The Office of the Medicaid Inspector General and the Taxi and Limousine Commission yesterday did a coordinated review of ambulette drivers in Brooklyn that revealed several unqualified drivers operating these vehicles.
They also identified potential fraudulent activities where driver records were missing and ambulettes were in operation despite not having the proper credentials.
The investigators concentrated on the areas near Coney Island Avenue and Coney Island Hospital. Their investigation yielded:
- Four unlicensed or unqualified drivers;
- Two vehicles not licensed by TLC — both vans were seized as a result;
- 10 summonses issued based on lack of paperwork or proper decals on display as required by the TLC for Medicaid transportation; and
- A total of $7,600 in fines based on the summonses.
All stops were made at the time of pick-up or drop-off, and OMIG investigators verified that all passengers involved were Medicaid recipients.
"Allowing untrained drivers to operate these vehicles in New York is an expensive roll of the dice," said Medicaid Inspector General James C. Cox. "The millions of dollars spent on these services risk the lives of pedestrians, motorists and patients, all the while ripping off taxpayers. The streets of New York are safer today, thanks to this operation."
"The paratransit vehicles we license transport our city's most vulnerable passengers," said TLC Commissioner and Chair David Yassky, "and their safety and the integrity of their operators are a high priority for the TLC. I'm grateful to OMIG for all their support, and look forward to working together with them long into the future in operations like these to protect the public from fraudulent and unscrupulous, bogus ambulette operators."
OMIG and the TLC first conducted a pilot program on June 12 along Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills and at Elmhurst Hospital in Elmhurst. That project resulted in eight summonses for unlicensed drivers, an unlicensed van, and the seizure of a van for operating in New York City without the proper license.
Based on information provided by OMIG from the June 12 operation, TLC discovered that some ambulette companies may have used tactics that do not comply with New York state and New York City rules, including subcontracting vehicles and drivers. TLC investigators used that information during an independent transportation surveillance at a metropolitan hospital, leading to the seizure of six more ambulettes from a company that had committed a variety of infractions.