TRENTON –The owner of a Newark pharmacy pleaded guilty Tuesday in connection with 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 that were never actually dispensed, Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced.
According to Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Riza Dagli, Nwala Gabriel, 49, of Piscataway, pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree Medicaid fraud before Superior Court Judge Michael A. Petrolle in Essex County. The charge was contained in a state grand jury indictment obtained by the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit on Oct. 26, 2009.
In pleading guilty, 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.
The state will recommend that Gabriel be sentenced to three years of probation. In addition, the state reserves the right to recommend that he be sentenced to up to 364 days in the county jail as a condition of the term of probation. Gabriel must pay restitution and a penalty totaling $178,272 and will be excluded from the Medicaid program for three years. He must surrender his license to practice pharmacy for a minimum period of three years or until he successfully completes all terms of his criminal sentence.
Petrolle scheduled sentencing for Gabriel for April 5. Deputy Attorneys General Sherry Wilson and Debra Conrad took the guilty plea for the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor.
Gabriel was charged as a result of Operation PharmScam, an ongoing investigation targeting Medicaid fraud that began in 2008 and has been conducted by OIFP’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the Jersey City Police Department and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations.
On Oct. 26, 2009, a total of 10 defendants, including Gabriel, were indicted as a result of the investigation into pharmacies that were buying prescriptions from patients and billing the Medicaid Program for medicines that were never dispensed.
On Jan. 19, two technicians at Pharmacy of America who were indicted, Jannah Rasheedah Amatul Muid and Alicia Stephens, pleaded guilty to third-degree Medicaid fraud.
The Medicaid program, which is funded by the state and federal governments, provides health care services and prescription drugs to persons who may not otherwise be able to afford such services and medicines. The State of New Jersey administers the Medicaid program through the Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services and through the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which investigates both criminal and civil Medicaid fraud and abuse in that program.
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