Albany Man Sentenced for Scamming Charities with Elaborate Drug Diversion Scheme
The defendant solicited prescription drug donations for bogus international relief missions
PHILADELPHIA – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Defendant Lorenzo Hodges, 62, of Albany, NY, was sentenced today to one and a half years in prison, three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $537,769 restitution and to forfeit $40,000 by United States District Court Judge Wendy Beetlestone for his involvement in a scheme to fraudulently obtain donated medications and return them to the pharmaceutical companies for profit.
The defendant pleaded guilty in May 2019 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. According to court documents, Hodges and others duped humanitarian organizations into believing that he had selflessly organized international relief missions to deliver medicines to the sick and injured in war-torn areas, but the missions were phony. At the time he was conducting this scheme, Hodges was the General Manager of a legitimate relief agency which provided donated clothing, personal care items, and durable medical equipment to approximately 17 conflict-affected nations worldwide. As such, Hodges was in a unique position to obtain donated pharmaceuticals.
Over a two-year period from 2012 to 2014, the defendant submitted applications under the auspices of his employer asking for donations of antibacterial agents and other medications for serious conditions such as diabetes. Hodges conjured up relief missions that would seem believable, identified fake destinations, and requested medications consistent with the purpose of the bogus trips so as not to raise any red flags. He arranged for the donated drugs to be transported from the donation site to his employer; concealed the drugs in the employer’s warehouse; and then hired a trucking company that transported the drugs to a returns processor using the pharmacy license of a co-conspirator. The returns processor issued refunds to the pharmacist on behalf of the drug manufacturers, believing that the drugs had been legitimately purchased. As a result of the scheme, Hodges and his co-conspirators fraudulently obtained refunds totaling approximately $540,000 for medications that had been donated to help suffering people around the world.
“It is difficult to imagine a fraud scheme more callous than scamming a charity on behalf of people suffering in the midst of war,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “But that is exactly what this defendant did to satisfy his own callous greed. Thanks to the investigative work of our law enforcement partners, Hodges will now spend time behind bars for his crime.”
“Under the guise of charity, Lorenzo Hodges amassed donated medications meant for vulnerable people in conflict zones, returned them, and banked the proceeds,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Imagine profiting by purposely exploiting the mass suffering of others. The selfishness on display here is breathtaking. The FBI is gratified to help bring Mr. Hodges to justice.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney M. Beth Leahy.