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Yesterday, the police arrested Mr. Orlando, two other hospital workers and two outsiders on charges of conducting a scheme from 1998 to 2003 to defraud the hospital group through sham billing for locks and pneumatic tube system parts. The charges included grand larceny, falsifying business records, computer trespass and conspiracy.

''It was their total greed that did them in, '' said the system's spokesman, Terry Lynam . ''Here was this fictitious company demanding to be paid.''

The police estimated North Shore's loss at $6 million, but the hospital system said the actual amount was less. It is hard to determine exactly how much in overcharges was paid and which goods and services were actually provided, hospital officials said.

''There was a lot of construction going on, this pneumatic system was being put in and there were supplies and services obviously being delivered and performed, but not $6 million worth, '' Mr. Lynam said. ''At least a good piece of it was fraudulent.''

Asked where the money had gone, Detective Sgt. James Tilton said, ''I think they spent it on themselves.'' He called Mr. Orlando ''the prime player'' in the scheme. The defendants' bank records showed that their accounts and spending habits had swelled in tandem with the hospital payments, investigators said.

Last year, after 18 years on the staff, Mr. Orlando, 46, of Melville, was fired for an unrelated matter, Mr. Lynam said. Yesterday, the hospital system suspended two other employees without pay upon their arrests: Phillip Marra, 37, of Ronkonkoma, who was in charge of the pneumatic tube system, and Robert Patrick, 46, of Commack, an assistant director of engineering.

The police also arrested Roy Brown, 54, and Rochelle Brown, 50, both of Plainview, charging they had been involved through their Brown and Silver Hardware company. Anther vendor implicated in the fraud was A&E Sales, the police said, but they did not name anyone from that company.

According to the authorities and the hospital system, the defendants working for North Shore either requested the goods and services that were ordered, or approved the requests or vouched for their delivery.

''It's hard to detect when the requester, the approver and the receiver are all involved, '' said Mr. Lynam.

The police declined to say whether any of the defendants had cooperated in the investigation. They were arraigned at First District Court in Hempstead.

The hospital system, based in Manhasset, spends $800 million a year on purchases, Mr. Lynam said. As a result of this case, he said, administrators have imposed new background checks of its vendors and additional analysis of spending aimed at detecting and preventing fraud.

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