MANHATTAN (CN) – New York officials brought charges Thursday against a pharmacy owner they say fleeced Medicaid to the tune of $11 million by billing for unnecessary drug refills, including for expensive HIV medications.
As laid out in a civil forfeiture action filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Chinatown pharmacist Hin Wong’s autorefill scheme afforded her a luxurious lifestyle that has grown only more extravagant over the years.
“For example, since May 2016, Wong has spent over $80,000 in purchases, including at high-end retail stores (e.g. Prada, Louis Vuitton and Miu Miu), for travel expenses (e.g. lodging in Martha’s Vineyard) and for expensive furniture,” the complaint states. “In a recent two-month period, from April 2017 to June 2017, Wong spent approximately $40,977 at Prada alone and in June 2017 Wong paid $1,000 to a plastic surgeon.”
Authorities used a sting operation to catch Wong in the act, saying she paid kickbacks to undercover agents posing as Medicaid recipients in exchange for their referrals of other Medicaid recipients who would bring her pharmacy their prescriptions.
“Wong’s scheme was simple,” the complaint states. “First, Wong bribed Medicaid recipient customers at her pharmacies with kickbacks, in the form of cash, in exchange for their prescriptions for medication, including expensive HIV medications. Wong lures additional Medicaid recipients into her scheme by also offering cash for referrals, paying customers to recruit their ‘friends,’ other Medicaid recipients willing to sell their Medicaid prescription to one of Wong’s pharmacies for a cash kickback.”
The complaint accuses Wong of carrying out a similar scheme at two now-shuttered Harlem pharmacies she once owned — NYC Pharmacy and New York Health First Pharmacy.
Authorities say an audit by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office found that Wong’s pharmacies bough $9 million worth of drugs to fill various prescriptions between January 1, 2014 and August 1, 2017, but billed Medicaid and other insurers for more than $15 million.
“The criminal defendants’ scheme, which preyed on this indigent population, fraudulently generated large sums of money from Medicaid … for certain medications that the pharmacies never dispensed, with knowledge in advance of those billings that the medications would never be dispensed,” the complaint states.
In addition to the civil complaint, Wong was arrested and charged with third-degree grand larceny. The top count carries up to seven years in state prison if Wong is convicted. Prosecutors say additional charges are possible.