Prescription for Fraud

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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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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.