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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Former Employee of Veterans Affairs Medical Center Charged with Stealing More Than $8.2 Million Worth of HIV Medication

NEWARK, N.J. – A former pharmacy technician was arrested today for stealing prescription HIV medications from the pharmacy of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in East Orange, New Jersey, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.

Lisa M. Hoffman, 48, of Orange, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with theft of medical products, specifically HIV medication. Hoffman is scheduled to make her initial appearance by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk this afternoon.

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

Hoffman’s responsibilities at the VAMC included ordering the necessary drugs and supplies for the outpatient pharmacy, including determining when to place orders and for what products, as well as regularly maintaining inventory levels of needed drugs and supplies. From at least August 2017 through November 2019, Hoffman used her position to steal prescription HIV medication from the VAMC. She placed large orders for HIV medication, purportedly on behalf of VAMC, and then stole the medication after it was delivered. VAMC surveillance footage captured Hoffman regularly taking dozens of bottles of HIV medications from the shelves of the outpatient pharmacy, placing them in a white mail bin, and then transferring the medications from the mail bin to her bag and exiting with the stolen medication. Hoffman stole approximately $8.2 million worth of the VAMC’s HIV medication.

Once Hoffman had the medication, Hoffman met her associate, Wagner Checonolasco, aka “Wanny,” 33, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, often at her residence, so that she could sell the stolen HIV medication to Checonolasco for cash. After obtaining the stolen HIV medication, Checonolasco resold it to others.       

Checonolasco was previously charged with conspiracy to steal government property.  Those charges remain pending.

The charge of theft of medical products is punishable by a potential penalty of 20 years in prison, and a fine of $1 million, or three times the economic loss attributable to the offense.

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 the charges.

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

The charges and allegations contained in the complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Topic(s): 
Prescription Drugs
Component(s): 
Press Release Number: 
21-091
Updated March 10, 2021