NJ: Pharmacy kickback scheme is drug dealer’s second strike

NJToday.net –

A pharmacy employee charged for conspiring to offer and pay bribes and kickbacks in exchange for having prescriptions steered to the Morris County pharmacy where he worked was previously found guilty at trial for conspiring with a doctor to illegally distribute the highly addictive painkiller oxycodone.

Srinivasa Raju, 49, a resident of the Haskell section of Wanaque Borough, in Passaic County, was arrested and charged by complaint on Wednesday, February 24, 2021, with conspiring to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute.

Raju completed a three year sentence on probation stemming from his 2016 conviction for distributing oxycodone without prescriptions.

Raju had his initial appearance by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer and was released on $250,000 unsecured bond.

Magdalena Jimenez, 56, of Newark, New Jersey, was previously charged with a parallel bribery and kickback scheme involving the same pharmacy. Those charges remain pending.

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig, documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Raju had various responsibilities at the Morris County pharmacy, including coordinating prescription deliveries and soliciting business.

From at least January 2019, Raju worked with other pharmacy personnel to pay kickbacks and bribes to a doctor’s employee in exchange for receiving numerous prescriptions from that doctor’s Jersey City office.

Raju first paid the kickbacks and bribes using gift cards, but soon switched to cash and checks.

He typically handed the kickbacks and bribes to coworkers inside the pharmacy and directed them to deliver the payments to the doctor’s employee.

To conceal the true nature of some of the illicit payments, Raju had approximately $8,000 worth of checks made out to the employee’s relative, under the guise of paying for IT services. In truth, Raju never met or communicated with the relative, and no actual services were performed.

In November 2020, Raju was recorded inside the pharmacy directing an employee to deliver a kickback and bribe of “200 bucks for Thanksgiving.” Raju asked, “What do you think, I should give $300? What do you think?”

Raju then counted out more cash, which he put in a sealed envelope to have hand delivered. In December 2020, he had a $250 cash kickback and bribe, which was stashed inside a Christmas card, hand delivered to the doctor’s employee, inside the doctor’s office.

The conspiracy charge is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss derived from the offense, whichever is greater.

Raju was previously arrested in 2012, when DEA special agents and detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice uncovered a scheme in which the pharmacist conspired with a doctor to illegally peddle oxycodone to users who lacked prescriptions or got one without being treated or examined.

Raju, who then lived in Clifton and was a pharmacist at Bottle Hill Pharmacy in Madison, was found guilty at trial

Former Madison Councilman Vincent A. Esposito, who was a doctor forced to surrender his medical license in New Jersey at the time he pleaded guilty on December 17, 2013, in state Superior Court in Morristown to conspiring to distribute oxycodone by writing prescriptions for the drug.

Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, and Special Agents with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, under the direction of Supervisory Special Agent Thomas Mahoney, with the investigation leading to the charges.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua L. Haber of the Health Care Fraud Unit.

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