PARAMUS, N.J. – A 36-year-old Paramus man, who previously owned and operated Empire Pharmacy in West New York, was charged by complaint with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and conspiracy to pay illegal kickbacks to a doctor, according to a press release from the United States Attorney District of New Jersey.
During his five-year stint at Empire Pharmacy from 2012 to 2017, Eduard “Eddy” Shtindler reportedly bribed a Hudson County psychiatrist to send prescriptions to his pharmacy. The paper currency was rolled up in pill bottles, which were delivered to the doctor, in exchange for patients, according to the release. Though the amount of the bribes was not specified, it was reported in 2015 that Empire perpetrated a fraudulent scheme to bribe doctors to send pricey specialty medication prescriptions to the pharmacy at the behest of Shtindler. Because specialty medications mandated prior authorization to be approved for reimbursement by insurance providers like Medicare and Medicaid, two pharmacists at Empire falsified prior authorization forms for medications for various autoimmune diseases and viral infections like Hepatitis C. In this time, the pharmacy managed to defraud the insurance companies out of at least $2 million.
Shtindler was part of 54 defendants who were convicted and charged after a coordinated health care fraud enforcement action spanning seven federal districts in the northeast resulted in over $800 million in losses and the distribution of more than 3.25 million opioid pills in “pill mill” clinics and doctors’ offices. Fifteen medical professionals and 24 defendants were charged for their part in diverting the drugs.
The raid was led by Health Care Fraud Unit of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section in conjunction with its Medicare Fraud Strike Force, in addition to the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the District of New Jersey, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Western District of Pennsylvania, Eastern District of New York, Western District of New York, District of Connecticut, and District of Columbia.
The culprits, which include marketing executives, pharmacists, doctors and the owners of a genetic testing laboratory from Clifton, to Staten Island to Gainesville, Florida, have been charged with, or have pled guilty to the criminal prescription of opioid pills to patients without a medical need, the paying of kickbacks related to unnecessary genetic testing, and other crimes that victimize federal health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
These arrests come just one year after the Department of Justice announced the formation of the Newark/Philadelphia Regional Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which, according to the press release, is “a joint law enforcement effort that brings together the resources and expertise of the Health Care Fraud Unit in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the District of New Jersey and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, as well as law enforcement partners.”
The Strike Force aggressively investigates and prosecutes “complex cases” involving patient harm, robust financial loss, and the illegal prescription and distribution of opioids and other narcotics.
“Physicians and other medical professionals who fraudulently bill our federal health care programs are stealing from taxpayers and robbing vulnerable patients of necessary medical care,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The medical professionals and others engaging in criminal behavior by peddling opioids for profit continue to fuel our nation’s drug crisis. The Department of Justice will continue to use every tool at our disposal, including data analytics and traditional law enforcement techniques, to investigate, prosecute, and punish this reprehensible behavior and protect federal programs from abuse.”