His travel records laid out the situation clearly: A 59-year-old New Jersey doctor was out of the country vacationing for at least 34 days over the last several years, according to federal prosecutors.
But during those vacation days, Dr. Michael Poyin Chang’s hour logs at two World Trade Center Monitoring Clinics told another story. When he was out of the country — and even at times when the clinics themselves were closed — Chang said he was treating and prescribing medicine to New York City firefighters who survived the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
Chang lied about working on more than 300 days total, including 220 days when he wasn’t scheduled to work and 81 days when he was on vacation, the fire department’s CityTime hour-logging database revealed. That means Chang stole $156,757 — nearly a year’s worth of work — from the World Trade Center Monitoring Clinics, prosecutors said.
Chang was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of fraud, according to a criminal complaint filed May 24. He appeared Wednesday before U.S. Judge Sanket J. Bulsaram, prosecutors said. His alleged wage-stealing scheme went on between 2011 and 2016.
Following his court appearance, Chang was released on $250,000 bond, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office told McClatchy.
U.S. attorney Richard P. Donoghue described the funds Chang allegedly stole as “taxpayer money designated for the medical care of [New York City Fire Department] first responders who put their lives and health at risk in order to save others endangered by the World Trade Center terrorist attack.”
If Chang is convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison, prosecutors said. Chang had worked at clinics in Queens and Orange County, New York, which is sandwiched between the Hudson River and New Jersey, north of New York City. Chang is a resident of Paramus, New Jersey.
The clinics were funded in part by the U.S. Center for Disease Control during the time Chang worked part-time as a doctor for the city’s fire department, prosecutors said.
“Stealing time is fraud,” New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters said in a statement announcing Chang’s arrest.
During his years working for the city’s fire department, Chang had a range of duties centered on helping 9/11 first responders, prosecutors said. Some of his work was examining current firefighters. Another component of his job was performing physicals on retirees. Chang also was responsible for doing follow-up care and prescribing medicine to New York City Fire Department members and retirees, prosecutors said. All of his pay was hourly.
When an audit revealed “significant discrepancies” between Chang’s work schedule and the hours he was logging, investigators for the New York City inspector general started looking into Chang’s hours, the complaint said.
Work schedules kept by the department’s medical office revealed Chang didn’t have shifts on the 220 days he falsely claimed to have worked, according to prosecutors. And by digging into U.S. Customs and Border Protection records, investigators discovered Chang wasn’t even in the country during at least 34 of the 81 vacation days he pretended to be working, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Chang’s password for the CityTime hour-logging program was unique to him, according to the complaint. That meant Chang himself was “solely responsible for documenting his hours, which were not independently verified by his superiors,” the complaint said. Chang entered the hours from a computer at the Orange County clinic.