Columbus Pharmacist Sentenced for Health Care Fraud Scheme
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Maria Mascio, 62, of Columbus, Ohio, was sentenced in U.S. District Court today to 24 months in prison and ordered to pay $1.1 million in restitution for executing a decade-long health care fraud scheme.
Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Angela L. Byers, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division, Lamont Pugh, Special Agent in Charge, Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, Mark S. McCormack, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Metro Washington Field Office, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Steven W. Schierholt, Executive Director, State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy and Jim Wernecke, Director, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation special investigations department, announced the sentence handed down today by U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson.
According to court records, Mascio, a licensed pharmacist and owner of Family Medical Pharmacy and Visions Systems in Columbus, Ohio, executed a health care fraud scheme for at least a decade (from 2003 through 2013). Her scheme caused a loss of $1.1 million.
Mascio schemed to defraud Medicare, Ohio Medicaid, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and private insurers by billing for sample drugs that could not be legally sold and for medications that had not been dispensed.
Mascio owned an office building on Karl Road in which her pharmacy and the medical offices of two doctors were located. Mascio directed pharmacy employees to remove prescription drug samples from the medical offices and place them in a storage room used by the pharmacy.
After collecting the drug samples, Mascio or employees under her direction removed the drugs from their individualized packaging and stored them in plastic bins. They disposed of the sample packaging in the dumpster located on the premises of the pharmacy and placed the sample drugs into the pharmacy inventory where they were co-mingled with the pharmacy’s stocked drugs and dispensed to the general public.
Mascio also orchestrated the submission of false claims for the sample drugs to health care benefit programs, including Medicare, Ohio Medicaid and Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
She pleaded guilty in May to one count of health care fraud scheme and one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States.
“Mascio’s criminal conduct included breaking into several physician offices and stealing large quantities of sample prescription drugs before shucking them from their original packaging,” U.S. Attorney Glassman said. “By misbranding the drugs, there was no method by which the drugs could be identified should there be a recall by the manufacturer, nor was there any way to determine the expiration date or whether the drugs remained effective. This is clearly a danger to the community, and we will continue to identify and prosecute this sort of criminal behavior.”
“Patients who are taking prescription medications need to be able to trust that the medicine that is being dispensed to them is safe and effective” said Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General – Chicago Region. “This defendant violated that trust and put her personal greed above the public’s health and safety. The OIG will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that medical professionals who commit criminal acts such as this are held accountable.”
“Our goal is to protect Ohio families, and fighting health care fraud is a priority,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “In this case, the defendant carried on her scheme for over a decade and put people at risk. We appreciate the cooperation of our law enforcement partners in holding her accountable.”
U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the FBI, Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, Ohio Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and FDA, as well as Assistant United States Attorney Kenneth F. Affeldt and Special Assistant United States Attorney Maritsa A. Flaherty of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, who are prosecuting the case.
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