Marina Golfo, a 49-year-old speech therapist who formerly worked under New York City Public Schools, was discovered to have swindled the department out of $24,367, approximately three months worth of paid sick leave.
According to reports, Golfo, along with seven of her colleagues, defrauded the Department of Health’s Early Intervention Program. Golfo submitted fake invoices and treatment records, extorting $156,000 for 1,500 therapy sessions. The fraud occurred over three years, resulting in Golfo’s conviction. She pled guilty to committing healthcare fraud in July 2021.
During her incarceration in West Virginia’s Federal Prison Camp Alderson, Golfo informed her department at the time that she was experiencing some health issues and could not make it out of her house. She then filled out an online sick leave form, attached a doctor’s note to it, and submitted it to her department. As the date of her release drew closer, she even requested extra sick leave until December 1, two days after her scheduled release date. Golfo was paid despite the fact that the Department of Public Schools was aware of her legal troubles.
Reports state that New York City Public Schools was aware of Golfo’s legal troubles. Her case was allegedly highly publicized with the city’s Department of Investigations aware of the case. In an effort to rubber-room the speech therapist, Golfo had been moved by the department to a Committee on Special Education office while on trial.
New York City Public Schools claimed that it was not aware that Golfo was incarcerated and sent to prison. She reportedly never reported her status and that of her case after it was completed.
New York City Public Schools eventually caught onto Golfo’s lies and fired her on January 31st. The Special Commissioner of Investigations had received a tip about the fraud she had committed. Golfo claimed that she was not aware she had violated her former department’s sick leave rules and regulations. She also claimed that it was irrelevant whether she was in prison or not because she was actually ill. Her court records allegedly show that she was diagnosed with herpes zoster complications, also known as shingles. Special Commissioner Anastasia Coleman advised that New York City Public Schools should force Golfo to pay back the money she received and that she be barred from ever working for the department again.
“You’ve got to admire her nerve if you don’t admire her stupidity,” said Ellen McHugh, a member of the Citywide Council on Special Education, referring to Golfo.