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June 10, 10

NEWS / Pharmacy Technician Sentenced in Medicaid Fraud Investigation

Investigation revealed that Medicaid was billed for expensive HIV/AIDS drugs never dispensed

TRENTON - Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that an Essex County pharmacy technician was sentenced today as a result of an investigation into pharmacy owners and employees who bought completed prescription forms for HIV/AIDS drugs from indigent patients so Medicaid could be billed for drugs never dispensed.

According to Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Riza Dagli, Shivonne Dlacy Forde, 27, of Orange, a technician at Pharmacy of America in East Orange, was sentenced today to three years of probation by Superior Court Judge Michael A. Petrolle in Essex County. The judge ordered that she be excluded from working for any Medicaid provider for five years. In addition, Forde was ordered to perform 150 hours of community service.

Forde pleaded guilty on March 8 to third-degree unlawful possession of prescription drugs with intent to distribute. In pleading guilty, Forde admitted that she possessed prescription cough syrup with codeine, without a valid prescription, which she intended to provide to others for distribution on the street.

Forde was charged as a result of Operation PharmScam, an ongoing investigation targeting Medicaid fraud that began in 2008 and has been conducted by the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutorís Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the Jersey City Police Department and the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationís Office of Criminal Investigations. Deputy Attorneys General Sherry Wilson and Debra Conrad represented the state at todayís sentencing.

On Oct. 26, 2009, a total of 11 defendants, including Forde, were indicted as a result of the investigation into pharmacies that were buying completed prescription forms for HIV/AIDS drugs from indigent patients and billing the Medicaid program for medicines that were never dispensed. A full list of defendants charged is in the Oct. 26, 2009 press release at www.njpublicsafety.com.

On May 17, Herbert Brandt, 78, of Verona, the owner of Pharmacy of America, was sentenced to three years in state prison. Brandtís son, Douglas Brandt, 50, of Verona, who operated Pharmacy of America, was also sentenced to three years in state prison. The Brandts were ordered to pay restitution to the Medicaid program and a civil penalty totaling $1.1 million and were excluded from the Medicaid program for eight years. Under the plea agreement, Herbert Brandt also entered into a consent agreement with the Board of Pharmacy to surrender his license to practice pharmacy. The Brandts pleaded guilty on Sept. 23, 2009 to second-degree health care claims fraud. Douglas Brandt also pleaded guilty to third-degree witness tampering.

On Feb. 23, Nwala Gabriel, 49, of Piscataway, pleaded guilty to third-degree Medicaid fraud for his involvement in the fraudulent scheme. Gabriel, the owner of Harrison Pharmacy on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Newark, admitted that he fraudulently billed Medicaid for prescription drugs that were never dispensed to the Medicaid beneficiaries. Gabriel was sentenced on April 6 to three years of probation. He must pay restitution and a penalty totaling $178,272 and will be excluded from the Medicaid program for three years. Gabriel also surrendered his license to practice pharmacy and was ordered to serve 150 hours of community service.

On Jan. 19, two other technicians at Pharmacy of America who were indicted, Jannah Rasheedah Amatul Muid and Alicia Stephens, pleaded guilty to third-degree Medicaid fraud. They were each sentenced on March 8 to three years of probation by Judge Petrolle. The judge ordered that they be excluded from working for any Medicaid provider for five years. In addition, Muid was ordered to perform 150 hours of community service, and Stephens, 100 hours.

The State of New Jersey administers the Medicaid program through the Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services and through the OIFPís Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which investigates both criminal and civil Medicaid fraud and abuse in that program.

The investigation has been conducted for the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit by Detective Kevin Gannon, Detective Danielle Han, Detective Joseph Jaruszewski, Detective Jacqueline Latty, Sgt. Fred Weidman and former Sgt. James Wrightson, as well as Auditor Cleair Budhu.

Deputy Attorneys General Wilson and Conrad are leading the prosecutions, with assistance from Deputy Attorney General Erik Daab, who is Deputy Chief of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and Deputy Attorneys General William Hoyman, Cynthia Vazquez, Linda Rinaldi and Carol Stanton Meier.

Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Dagli noted that some important cases have started with anonymous tips.


Tags: consent agreement, criminal investigation,


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