Four New Jersey men, two of them physicians, were the latest to be charged in a vast health-care benefits conspiracy that has ensnared Shore firefighters, police officers, pharmaceutical representatives, and teachers.
The two doctors were identified as Daniel Oswari, 48, of Bordentown, and Michael Goldis, of Mount Laurel. They were charged with conspiracy to commit health-care wire fraud, in addition to individual acts of health-care and wire fraud.
The two doctors and two others, Steven Monaco, 37, of Sewell, and Aaron Jones, 25, of Willingboro, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Williams in federal court in Camden on Thursday afternoon. The cases were assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler, who has presided over several dozen of these cases, most of them involving guilty pleas.
Kristie Masucci, a pharmaceutical representative, became the first person to be sentenced last month, receiving a term of two years in prison.
A Margate doctor, John Gaffney, pleaded guilty in 2017 to signing fraudulent prescriptions totaling nearly $24 million in the scheme and is awaiting sentencing.
A fifth person, Jason Chacker, 36, of Feasterville, Bucks County, a physicians assistant, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to participating in the health-care fraud conspiracy by signing prescriptions for patients he had not examined, prosecutors said.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said the four men were charged with defrauding New Jersey state health benefits programs and other insurers of $4.5 million by submitting fraudulent claims for medically unnecessary prescriptions.
Monaco and Oswari were charged with a conspiracy involving kickbacks for referrals for laboratory work, prosecutors said. Jones was charged with making 10 false statements.
According to prosecutors, between January 2014 and April 2016, the conspirators recruited individuals in New Jersey to obtain compounded medications from a Louisiana pharmacy and another pharmacy in Pennsylvania.
“The conspirators learned that certain compound medication prescriptions – including pain, scar, antifungal, and libido creams, as well as vitamin combinations – were reimbursed for thousands of dollars for a one-month supply,” the prosecutors said in a statement.
The conspirators learned that New Jersey state, local government, and education employees, including teachers, firefighters, municipal police officers, and state troopers had insurance coverage for these compound medications through the State Health Benefits Program, which covered employees, retirees, and dependents.
The total amount of the prescriptions reimbursed through the conspiracy was about $50 million, prosecutors said. The various conspirators formed a recruitment network and received various kickbacks from the money paid to the pharmacy by the health-care plan.
Richard Zappala, who previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health-care fraud, had agreements to receive a percentage of the amount that the two pharmacies received for prescriptions. Zappala is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 13.
“Monaco paid kickbacks to Dr. Oswari and another medical professional to reward them for signing prescriptions, and Zappala paid Dr. Goldis for signing prescriptions,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office release said. “Jones, who was a medical assistant in Goldis’ office, also forged Goldis’ signature on other prescriptions.”
The health-care fraud and wire-fraud conspiracy count with which all the indicted defendants are charged carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss from the offense. Each wire-fraud count carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss from the offense. Each health-care fraud count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The kickbacks conspiracy count and the false statement counts each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense
Chacker admitted that he and his conspirators recruited individuals who had prescription-drug benefits administered by the Pharmacy Benefits Administrator that covered compounded medications. At the request of a conspirator, Chacker signed prescriptions for individuals without ever meeting them or evaluating whether they needed the compounded medications. He also paid one individual to receive compounded medications. Chacker received $3,200 and other valuable items from a conspirator for his role. The Pharmacy Benefits Administrator paid $365,454 for prescriptions fraudulently obtained by Chacker and his conspirators.
Chacker faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 5, 2020.