(Letter shared by Aimana Elbahatity, Executive Director of the Erie County Medical Society). *In response to any correspondence or call from NYSED, please never hesitate to contact NYSPMA’s general counsel.
Dear Members: Below please find a concerning message from one of our valued physician members detailing an account that took place this week and involved individuals purporting to be State and Federal officials. For the sake of honoring the integrity of this member’s account, I have shared the member’s direct message below: Here are the details of my experience yesterday that I would like to let other members be aware of. My Medical Assistant took a call yesterday morning from someone identifying himself as Albert Rossi from the State Education Department, Office of Professions, Division of Licensing Services. He said that he needed to talk to me about a problem with my NY Medical License.
When I got on the phone, he told me that I was under investigation and connected me with someone who said he was Brian Hobbs, the Chief Investigating Officer, Unit 3. I spent most of the morning and a good part of the afternoon on the phone with this person. He told me that my license was being suspended at the order of the FBI and DEA because I was the prime suspect in an investigation involving illegal drug trafficking and money laundering. At times, he would call someone that he said was an FBI Agent named Robert Johnson who then was part of a 3-way call with me.
They faxed me official-looking documents that are attached to this email. [Please click here to view those documents, which have been redacted for privacy reasons]. The first one stated that my license was suspended. He then told me my options were to consult a lawyer and fight these allegations in court. If I did that, I would not be able to practice medicine until the case was resolved. The other option was that I could agree to cooperate with the investigation. Even though the evidence appeared to show that I was involved, they suspected that I was set up and my DEA and license were being used by someone else. They hoped that my cooperation would help them find the real culprit. If I agreed to cooperate, they would be able to reinstate my license within 48-72 hours. I was told that I would have to post a bond of $15,600 to have the license reinstated and this would be refunded once the case was resolved. I did sign the cooperation agreement, but then I was able to confirm with the State Education Department that there was no action against my license.
The caller ID on their call was the real number for the State Education Department. This whole scheme was well-rehearsed and very convincing. They preyed on the fact that I desperately didn’t want my license suspended. They insisted that I stay on the line with them while all this was transpiring and would put me on hold while they prepared or reviewed the attached documentation, etc. They insisted that I not hang up or talk to anyone else because it could compromise the investigation. This was obviously a ploy to prevent me from getting anyone else to help me figure if this was real or a scam.
This was submitted by Aimana ElBahtity, Esq. Executive Director Erie County, and reprinted with her permission.