Ti taxi company owners plead guilty in federal cases

Two brothers who operated taxi companies in Essex County that defrauded the state of millions of dollars in Medicaid funds pleaded guilty this week to federal felony charges, charges that could result in 10 years of federal prison time.

Qaiser “Kaz” Gondal, 47, of Watervliet, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud Medicaid, while his brother, Khurram Gondal, 39, of Ticonderoga, pleaded guilty to health care fraud for their roles in a wide-ranging, years-long effort to inflate Medicaid claims for state-funded transportation of the indigent to medical appointments.

The so-called “Medicaid cab” program in Essex County ran up massive bills as cab owners and passengers falsely claimed trips to medical appointments, many of them trips to drug rehabilitation facilities. Owners of several cab companies in Ticonderoga paid the passengers kickbacks in an effort to recruit them for the trips. The fraud occurred between 2014 and 2018.

Qaiser Gondal operated Ti Taxi Co., while Khurram Gondal ran Green Mountain Medical Transportation Inc. and Four Way Taxi, Inc., all of Ticonderoga.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Barnett said in a news release that each faces up to 10 years in federal prison when sentenced in November. Qaiser Gondal agreed to pay $325,000 in restitution, while his brother will pay $60,000.

The two were among at least a dozen arrested in May 2018 after a lengthy state and federal investigation into the scheme. Two other cab company operators pleaded guilty last year and earlier this year, while charges remain pending against a number of others, including at least one other cab company owner.

As part of his guilty plea, Qaiser Gondal admitted he:

-Billed Medicaid and received payment for trips when beneficiaries had driven themselves to their own medical appointments.

-Falsified the identities of the drivers for those trips.

-Billed Medicaid and received payment for round trips to and from medical appointments when the beneficiaries took only one-way trips with Ti Taxi.

-Falsified pick-up and drop-off locations to increase the purported distances traveled and claim and receive higher Medicaid payments.

Khurram Gondal’s lawyer, Lawrence Elmen, said his client’s sentencing “advisory range” for this plea is 6 to 12 months behind bars.

-Elmen said his client’s thefts did not amount to the money that was initially alleged by prosecutors. In all, he was found to have overbilled for $60,000 after all records were reviewed.

“It certainly wasn’t of the scope or scale that they first believed,” he said.

Qaiser Gondal’s lawyer, Marc Zuckerman, had no comment on the case Wednesday.