NEW YORK (AP) — A nationwide prescription drug ring bought mountains of HIV medications and other drugs from down-and-out Medicaid recipients in New York City, then marketed the pills to pharmacies that dispensed them to unsuspecting consumers, authorities said Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan detailed the scheme at a news conference announcing charges against 48 defendants.
Arrests were made in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Florida and Texas. The FBI also seized more than 250,000 pills worth $16 million.
The defendants “ran a black market in prescription pills involving a double-dip fraud of gigantic proportions,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Unlike cases involving prescription painkillers and other addictive narcotics, the ring specialized in expensive medications — some worth more than $1,000 a bottle — for serious illnesses like HIV, schizophrenia and asthma. Authorities estimated that Medicaid lost at least $500 million in reimbursements over at least five years on pills diverted into the secondhand market.
“The scheme was a theft, pure and simple, from a program funded by taxpayers,” said Janice K. Fedarcyk, head of the FBI’s New York office.