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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Bergen County Man Admits Stealing More Than $8.2 Million Worth of HIV Medication

NEWARK, N.J. – A Bergen County man today admitted his role in a scheme to steal prescription HIV medication from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.

Wagner Checonolasco, aka “Wanny,” 34, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark federal court to an information charging him with conspiring to steal government property. 

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From August 2017 through Nov. 20, 2019, Checonolasco conspired with Lisa M. Hoffman and others to steal HIV medication belonging to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Hoffman allegedly stole the medication from the pharmacy of her employer, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in East Orange, New Jersey, and then sold the stolen medication to Checonolasco for cash. Hoffman used her position as a procurement official at the VAMC to order large quantities of HIV prescription medications so that she could steal the excess medication and then sell it to Checonolasco, who then resold it for a profit. Checonolasco and Hoffman stole approximately $8.2 million worth of HIV medication belonging to the VAMC.

The conspiracy charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest.  Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 15, 2021.

Hoffman, 48, of Orange, New Jersey, was previously charged in a three-count indictment with conspiracy, theft of government property, and theft of medical products. Those charges remain pending, and she is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, Northeast Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christopher F. Algieri, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole F. Mastropieri of the Health Care Fraud Unit in Newark. 

Topic(s): 
Prescription Drugs
Component(s): 
Press Release Number: 
21-360
Updated August 10, 2021