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[MM Curator Summary]: He told people he could get them Medicaid coverage for nursing home care, and charged them thousands of dollars each.
Joe and Leslie Walsh. They hired Advanta Medicaid Specialists to assist Joe’s father Joseph Walsh, Sr., obtain Medicaid for nursing home care, but claimed the company scammed them.Andrew Miller | For NJ Advance Media
The owner of a Lakewood company alleged to have stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from nursing home residents and their families seeking help with Medicaid applications was hit with a $1.6 million default judgment, state officials said Monday.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs secured the judgment against Nissim “Sam” Aryeh of Lakewood, the owner of the now defunct Advanta Medicaid Specialists.
Essex County Superior Court Judge James Paganelli found Aryeh personally liable for 131 violations of the state’s consumer protection laws and regulations, the attorney general’s office said.
The $1,630,194 judgment includes $226,450 in consumer restitution, $1,310,000 in civil penalties and $93,744 in attorneys’ fees and investigative costs, the state said.
It also permanently bars Aryeh from the Medicaid advisory business in the state.
Aryeh could not be reached for comment.
In a civil lawsuit filed in December 2019, the state charged Aryeh and company agent Chaim E. Feller with transferring company funds into their personal accounts to bankroll their own expenses.
State investigators said the firm took more than $300,000 from clients and used the money to pay for meals at high-end restaurants, car payments and furniture, and payments to local private schools and synagogues, and to bankroll expenses at Harrah’s Resort casino in Atlantic City — before it closed.
The investigation started after families reported that Advanta did not provide promised services or it did not provide promised refunds for nursing home residents who were not approved for Medicaid. Consumers paid between $3,000 and $9,000 each for the promised services, it said.
“Hopefully the people he took advantage of in times of having to make difficult family care decisions will be fully reimbursed,” said Leslie Walsh, who paid $6,000 to the company to help with the Medicaid application for her father-in-law, who died before the application was submitted. “However, no amount of money is recompense for the anxiety, frustration and trauma Nissim Sam Aryeh caused for so many people.”
The Walsh family said they never got any money back even though they were promised a refund, although they later won a default judgment against the company that they never were able to collect.
The state’s complaint accused the defendants of violating the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and advertising regulations by failing to submit Medicaid applications for customers, falsely representing to customers that their applications had been submitted, refusing to honor the money-back guarantee and using company monies to bankroll their personal spending.
In a settlement with the Attorney General’s office announced in September, Feller agreed to pay $55,000 in restitution, to refrain from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts in violation of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and to provide the division with written notice of any future ownership interest in a registered business that offers Medicaid services to New Jersey consumers.
There was no admission of any wrongdoing.
At the time, the judge also entered a default judgment for over $1.66 million against Advanta itself, finding that the company committed 131 violations of the state’s consumer protection laws and regulations. He ordered $281,450 be returned to victims.
The case against Aryeh, though, was not resolved as his attorneys revealed that he was also under criminal investigation.
In filings with the court, his lawyer, A. Ross Pearlson, a former assistant U.S. attorney, said in a motion seeking a delay in the state’s civil proceedings that his client had no intention of settling with the state.
“The threat of Mr. Aryeh being criminally prosecuted is direct, real and ongoing,” Pearlson told the court. “Mr. Aryeh received a target letter from the DCJ (Division of Criminal Justice). In February, the prosecutor in charge of the case represented that the investigation was ‘active and ongoing.'”
The attorney general’s office did not immediately comment on Pearlson’s remarks.
“The defendant in this case participated in a scheme that callously preyed on elderly individuals seeking help in obtaining Medicaid coverage for their long-term care,” Grewal said of Aryeh. “We will continue to pursue these cases to hold businesses and owners accountable for their actions and send a strong message of deterrence to others.”
According to his LinkedIn page, Aryeh currently lists himself as the director of a candle company. Previously, he was listed as director of business development for a Lakewood software developer and a self-employed equity trader. In his filings with the court late last year, his attorney said he was fired and lost that job as a result of the pandemic and was in debt with no income or assets.
He was also no longer paying his lawyer, according to court records.
Reached through his LinkedIn account late last year, Aryeh declined to answer specific questions. But he said he wished to express his “sincerest apologies” to those who were hurt.
“Although it may take some time, I intend on giving a full refund to every person effected (sic) by this unfortunate situation,” he wrote.
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Karin Price Mueller may be reached at KPriceMueller@NJAdvanceMedia.com.