Two pharmacy owners and a supervising pharmacist were arrested Tuesday in a multi-million-dollar prescription drug fraud case in which investigators say the suspects bought medicine back from patients. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
Cuffed and with their heads hung low, two of the three men accused of operating a drug buyback scheme were taken Tuesday from the pharmacy where authorities say they ran their operation.
"They pretended that they were giving out HIV retro-viral drugs, which are very expensive, which Medicaid would send them $1,900 or $2,000," said State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. "Instead of giving those drugs to people who had HIV, they would pay the poor patients a couple of hundred bucks and keep the rest for themselves."
Schneiderman says that Ahmed Hamed and Tarek Elsayed own the 184th Street Pharmacy, and along with head pharmacist Hassan Ahmed, were, in effect, encouraging patients to put their health at further risk by foregoing their medication. The men allegedly even gave bonuses for referring others.
"These folks put their own profit above any professional responsibility," Schneiderman said. "Our complaint charges that this was a fundamental breach of trust, that these people put people's lives at risk. They robbed all the taxpayers."
The attorney general says that the men took in about $10 million in government reimbursements by falsely billing Medicare, Medicaid and Medicaid-managed care organizations for the medications they didn't dispense, and lived luxurious lives with the money they made. Several luxury cars in the men's possession were also seized Tuesday morning.
Folks in the neighborhood were shocked to hear about the crimes that were allegedly committed at the pharmacy and the amount of money amassed in such a short time. They said that the pharmacy hasn't even been around that long.
"That's crazy. I mean, they just opened," said one person.
"This is out of control, especially around this area, where you have two schools," said another.
"You really can't have any trust in anybody anymore, because if they supposed to help you and assist you, how you going to go, that can happen anywhere," said a third.
The three have been charged with felony grand larceny and scheming to defraud the government. Hamed and Elsayed are also charged with felony money laundering.
If convicted, each could face up to seven years in prison.