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posted Friday, September 1, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 35
New York Attorney General announces civil suit and criminal charges against pharmacy owner for allegedly defrauding Medicaid of millions
Section One
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New York Attorney General announces civil suit and criminal charges against pharmacy owner for allegedly defrauding Medicaid of millions

NEW YORK, NY - [On Thursday, August 24] Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a lawsuit and criminal charges against pharmacist Hin T. Wong, 49, of Manhattan, and NY Pharmacy, Inc. ("NY Pharmacy") for allegedly defrauding the New York State Medicaid program out of millions of dollars. Wong, a licensed pharmacist and owner of NY Pharmacy, located at 131 Walker Street in Manhattan, allegedly paid undercover agents posing as Medicaid recipients kickbacks for HIV prescriptions and for referring other Medicaid recipients to bring their prescriptions to NY Pharmacy. Wong and NY Pharmacy also allegedly billed and were eventually paid over $60,000 by Medicaid for refills on prescriptions submitted by undercover agents that NY Pharmacy either did not dispense or were predicated on the payment of a kickback. Various state laws and Medicaid regulations prohibit the payment of kickbacks for the referral of patients or individual prescriptions. In addition, the Attorney General also announced the filing of a civil asset forfeiture action seeking over $11 million in damages from Wong, NY Pharmacy and two other pharmacies owned by Wong that are now closed.

"Stealing from Medicaid in order to purchase fancy accessories and travel tickets is absolutely shameful," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "We will not allow Medicaid to serve as a personal piggy bank for criminals. Fraudsters who seek to rip-off this vital program that helps millions of New Yorkers will be held accountable."

The on-going investigation into NY Pharmacy being conducted by the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit ("MFCU") revealed that on multiple occasions between July 2014 and August 2017, Wong allegedly paid kickbacks to undercover MFCU agents posing as patients to fill prescriptions, most of which involved medication to treat HIV, at NY Pharmacy or at two other pharmacies she owned, which are now closed. The defendants thereafter allegedly submitted claims for reimbursement to Medicaid through NY Pharmacy for refills that were not dispensed by the pharmacy, a scheme known as "auto-refilling."

Simultaneous to today's arrest, the Attorney General filed a civil asset forfeiture action against Wong, NY Pharmacy, and Wong's two closed pharmacies in New York State Supreme Court, New York County seeking over $11 million in damages. In papers filed in court today, the Attorney General alleges that Wong personally made millions from the scheme and used the proceeds, among other things, to make lavish credit card purchases of high-end retail items (including Prada and Vuitton), and to pay for travel expenses and expensive furniture. An investigational audit uncovered evidence indicating that Wong's pharmacies did not purchase enough medication to support their substantial billings to Medicaid. Between January 1, 2014 and August 1, 2017, Wong's pharmacies billed Medicaid and other insurers over $15 million for medications, but allegedly purchased only a fraction of the amount of drugs necessary to fill those prescriptions. As part of the civil action, the Attorney General also obtained a court order freezing the bank accounts held by the defendants to preserve money wrongfully obtained from Medicaid.

Investigators from the Attorney General's Office with the assistance of investigators from the New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General executed a search warrant this morning at NY Pharmacy. Hin T. Wong and NY Pharmacy were arrested and charged by felony complaint filed in New York City Criminal Court, New York County with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, and Medical Assistance Provider: Prohibited Practices (Kickbacks), a class E felony. Wong is expected to be arraigned later this afternoon. If convicted on the top count, Wong faces up to seven years in state prison. Wong may face additional criminal charges as the criminal investigation continues.

The Attorney General thanks the New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General under the leadership of Inspector General Dennis Rosen for its continued partnership and its assistance in this investigation. The Attorney General also thanks Medicaid managed care insurers Amida Care and Metro Plus for referring the matter and for their cooperation throughout the investigation.

The charges against the defendants are merely accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

MFCU's investigation was conducted by Investigator Nefertiti Clarke with the assistance of Supervising Investigator Dominick DiGennaro and Deputy Chief Investigator Kenneth Morgan. The audit investigation was conducted by Principal Auditor Investigator Cristina Marin and Auditor Investigator Megan Scott with the assistance of New York City Regional Deputy Chief Auditor Jonathan Romano and New York City Regional Chief Auditor Thomasina Smith.

The criminal case is being prosecuted by Special Counsel Imran S. Ahmed with the assistance of MFCU New York City Deputy Regional Director Twan Bounds and MFCU New York City Regional Director Christopher M. Shaw. The civil action is being brought by Senior Counsel Marie Spencer and Special Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Kappakas with the assistance of MFCU Chief of Civil Enforcement Carolyn Ellis. Special Assistant Attorney General Thomas O'Hanlon is the MFCU Chief of Criminal Investigations-Downstate. MFCU is led by Director Amy Held and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul J. Mahoney.

Courtesy of the New York Attorney General's Press Office

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