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Bergen County Counseling Center Owner Pleads Guilty to $700K Health Care Fraud Scheme

Bergen County

By: Richard L. Smith 

In a continued attempt to fight against healthcare fraud, Ms. Maria P. Cosentino, the owner of a New Jersey counseling center, admitted her involvement in a fraudulent scheme that resulted in hundreds of false claims.ChickenU.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced that Cosentino, 60, of Garfield, entered her guilty plea in front of U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden in Newark federal court.

The scheme, as outlined by federal prosecutors, involved Cosentino falsely billing private health insurance companies for counseling sessions that never took place.

These claims included sessions for patients who had either stopped attending her practice, were abroad or did not exist at all.

The fraudulent activities conducted by Cosentino led to her illicitly obtaining over $700,000.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger emphasized the importance of integrity in the healthcare system, noting that Cosentino's actions undermined patients' trust in using their health insurance plans for necessary services.

He stated, "This defendant admitted today that she falsified claims to boost her payments... My office is determined to root out those who would try to rig the system for ill-gotten profits."

James E. Dennehy, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Newark, highlighted the broader impact of such fraud on the healthcare industry, which suffers billions of dollars in losses annually due to scams.

He urged anyone with information about similar fraudulent activities to report them to the Newark FBI office.

Cosentino's admission of guilt revealed that she had been submitting false claims for years through her business, Bergen Alliance Counseling Services.

This facility offered mental health treatment and counseling services to a broad demographic, including children, families, couples, and adults.

The charge of healthcare fraud against Cosentino carries severe penalties, including a potential ten years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the profit or loss from the offense, whichever amount is greater.

Her sentencing is scheduled for July 23, 2024, marking a critical step forward in addressing healthcare fraud.