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New England in brief

Brookline couple guilty of Medicaid fraud

May 19, 2009
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BOSTON
A Brookline couple pleaded guilty yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court to fraud and larceny charges after illegally obtaining Medicaid health benefits, according to a statement from the state auditor's office. Prosecutors said Joseph and Jila Youshaei are worth an estimated $2 million, but reported just $475 in income each week to become eligible for Medicaid benefits under MassHealth, which they and their three children received from 1999 to 2005. The two were ordered to pay total restitution of $53,114 and were fined $17,500 each. Joseph Youshaei, 47, was sentenced to one year in the House of Correction, with 30 days to serve, and he will spend a year on probation. Jila Youshaei, 42, was sentenced to one year of probation.

Orange Line signal defect causes delays
An equipment defect in the Orange Line's signaling system has caused massive delays for nearly a week, said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo. The problem was detected last Wednesday in one electronic circuit board used on the Orange Line between Downtown Crossing and Oak Grove, he said in a statement. Since then, Orange Line personnel have had to monitor train operations, causing delays. The area from Downtown Crossing to North Station was corrected Sunday. Remaining affected equipment locations are expected to return to normal this weekend, Pesaturo said in the statement. The contractor, J.F. White Contracting Co. of Framingham, will be held financially responsible for all costs associated with repair or replacement.

State proposes $1.95m in fee increases
A round of golf and a day at the ice rink are about to get pricier under proposed fee increases at facilities run by Department of Conservation and Recreation. Eighteen holes at the Ponkapoag Golf Course in Canton will cost $27, a 23 percent hike. An hour of youth hockey at any of the department's 40 ice rinks will rise 9 percent to $175 from $160. The DCR expects the increases to raise $1.95 million a year.

Mass. reports 26 more cases of swine flu
State laboratory tests show that 26 more Massachusetts adults and children have swine flu, with two of the newly diagnosed patients requiring hospitalization, the state Department of Public Health reported yesterday. Since the virus first appeared in the state late last month, a total of 167 infections have been confirmed, with 100 of those patients living in Middlesex County.

Senate urged to raise taxes, save programs
Activists are urging the Massachusetts Senate to spare their programs from deep cuts or elimination, even if it means hiking taxes. Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey of the 1960s folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary plan to play at a State House rally today to protest cuts to programs for citizens living with disabilities. A group of clergy from across the state also plan to gather on Beacon Hill today to urge lawmakers to raise taxes, not slash health and human service programs.

CAMBRIDGE
Mormon church fire is ruled accidental
Investigators have ruled the fire that heavily damaged a church outside Harvard Square in Cambridge Sunday was accidental, said John J. Gelinas, chief of operations for the Cambridge Fire Department, although the cause remains under investigation. The fire, which started in an attic during morning services at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, burned for more than two hours. About 350 Mormons from three congregations were inside the church when the fire broke out. No injuries were reported.

SALEM
Salem State to cut 7 percent of staff
Seeking to respond to the economic downturn, Salem State College announced plans yesterday to cut 7 percent of its work force, or 60 full-time administrative positions. College spokeswoman Karen Murray Cady said none of the cuts would include educators. College president Patricia Maguire Meservey said the cuts would help improve the college's fiscal standing. The cuts will restructure several departments, including the college's marketing and admissions divisions. Of the 60 planned cuts, 35 are currently unfilled positions.