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PHARMACIST PLEADS GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD MEDICAID

September 13, 2010

BOSTON, Mass. - Amadiegwu Onujiogu, a Dorchester pharmacist, was convicted today of defrauding the United States government by submitting false claims to Medicaid, a federally-funded program.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Susan J. Waddell, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Boston Regional Office of Investigations; Mark Dragonetti, Special Agent in Charge, Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations; Steven Derr, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration - Boston Field Division; and Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis announced today that Amadiegwu Onujiogu, 63, of Randolph, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Edward F. Harrington to Conspiracy to Defraud the Government.

At today’s plea hearing, the prosecutor told the court that had the case proceeded to trial, the Government’s evidence would have proven that Onujiogu, a registered pharmacist and owner of Codman Square Pharmacy located at 624-626 Washington Street, Dorchester, along with other employees, paid customers to bring prescriptions to the pharmacy, but did not actually dispense the medications to the customers. Onujiogu, solicited and received paper prescriptions (prescriptions purportedly issued and signed by the individuals’ physicians), and submitted claims for payment to Medicaid and Medicare for the prescriptions and their refills, without physically dispensing the medication to the individuals.

Customers who participated regularly in this prescription purchasing scheme were typically individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS and/or psychiatric disorders such as depression and bi-polar disorder. Many of these individuals were drug addicted, and some were homeless. These customers were encouraged by Onujiogu to bring their prescriptions to the pharmacy and sell them for cash. Customers received payments that ranged from one-tenth to one-third of the amount that the pharmacy would bill Medicaid and sometimes Medicare as a secondary insurance. Since the medications were not dispensed as intended, the customers were not receiving or taking the medications they had been prescribed. When these beneficiaries brought paper prescriptions into Codman Square Pharmacy, Onujiogu confirmed that the prescriptions were approved for payment by Medicaid, entered the prescriptions into the pharmacy computer, submitted the claims to Medicaid electronically, and printed out labels. Onujiogu then paid a percentage of the value of the medications to the beneficiaries in cash, in the back room of the pharmacy, and then shredded the labels, without ever dispensing the medications. Some of these medications fraudulently billed to Medicaid and Medicare cost more than $1,000 per one-month supply. In total, Medicaid paid at least $292,000 and Medicare paid at least $60,000 to Codman Square Pharmacy for these fraudulently billed prescriptions.

Judge Harrington scheduled sentencing for December 16, 2010. Onujiogu faces up to 10 years imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

The case was investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations; the United States Drug Enforcement Administration; the Office of the Attorney General, Medicaid Fraud Division; the Office of the State Auditor, Bureau of Special Investigations; and the Boston Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shelbey Wright of Ortiz’s Health Care Fraud Unit.

 

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