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Prescription for Fraud

close up of a prescription bottle with white tables falling out on top of a group of hundred dollar bills
Senior Director of Strategic Alliances
LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

A Fort Lee, N.J., pharmacist got caught up in an elaborate workers’ compensation fraud scheme that stole between $1.5 and $3.5 million through postal workers’ compensation claims. The pharmacist conspired with three other individuals to prescribe and dispense expensive topical pain creams that were not medically necessary or wanted by the patients who received the prescriptions.

Zachary Ohebshalom, 34, became involved in the workers’ compensation fraud scheme beginning in May 2016. He participated in a kickback conspiracy that involved Dr. Mark Filippone, 71, of Wallington, N.J., Joseph Vangelas, 33, of Fort Lee and Marlene Vangelas, 58 of River Vale.

Dr. Filippone treated hundreds of now-former U.S. Postal Service employees who were supposedly injured on-the-job. The doctor signed off on their disability claims and sent in bogus forms and medical reports to the Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Program for patients who were not disabled. (He also prescribed expensive topical pain creams and funneled those prescriptions to the pharmacy where Ohebshalom worked.)

An interesting twist to this story is that Joseph Vangelas and Marlene Vangelas purchased the office building where the pharmacy was located. (Oh, and by the way, they also operated the pharmacy.) The owners of the building and pharmacy operators forced the doctor to prescribe a specific mixture, which the pharmacists (Ohebshalom was one of them) had determined would obtain the most amount of federal benefits. (The doctor agreed to conform to their illegal request because he could not afford to pay the rent.)

Ohebshalom pleaded guilty to his part of the multi-million dollar workers’ compensation fraud scheme. When sentenced, he could spend up to five years in federal prison and pay a $250,000 fine for violating federal anti-kickback laws. (It won’t be long before this fraudulent pharmacist gets his own prescription for fraud. He might find that the cure is worse than the disease.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Fort Lee pharmacist took kickbacks in workers’ compensation scam,” published on northjersey.com on February 10, 2020.

A pharmacist from Fort Lee pleaded guilty on Monday to his part in an elaborate scheme that took in between $1.5 million and $3.5 million in postal workers’ compensation claims, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Zachary Ohebshalom, 34, of Fort Lee directed employees of a pharmacy in Fair Lawn to process orders for expensive pain-relieving creams that were prescribed to postal workers who did not need the medicine, and provided the U.S. Department of Labor with medical reports to support the bogus compensation claims.

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