Officials at the Health and Human Services Department, who have been working overtime to cut back most of their programs, recently found themselves with some unexpected revenue.
They got a check for $308,231 from Dr. Richard Kones, a physician who admits that he's been defrauding the department's Medicare and Social Security disability programs for years.
Kones made headlines in December by telling the Senate Aging Committee how he found it easy as pie to rip off the government for services he never performed.
Auditors for the HHS inspector general, irked by the rave reviews for Kones' televised appearance, moved quickly to retrieve some of the money that ended up in Kones' pocket.
"You made this pathological liar and common thief sound like the good guy, while dedicated HHS investigators were denigrated as paper shufflers," HHS spokesman Richard McGowan complained in a letter to one newspaper editor.
The check to the United States of America, drawn on the Chemical Bank in New York City, resulted from a civil fraud settlement arranged with Kones by the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan. The money is supposed to be distributed to each HHS program based on the amount of Kones' fraudulent efforts.
Kones, a well-known cardiologist from Pound Ridge, N.Y., may have set some records. He was convicted of Medicare fraud in New York state in the mid-1970s.
In November, 1980, he pleaded guilty to larceny in Connecticut and was placed on probation for five years. The following month he was arrested in New York in an insurance fraud investigation.
By his own account, however, Kones continued to submit phony medical bills to various federal programs even after these convictions.
When a four-year investigation by HHS was completed, Kones pleaded guilty last September to 67 felony counts of defauding Medicare and the Labor Department's workers' compensation program by filing false claims that netted him at least $500,000. He is awaiting sentencing