Many people in South Jersey were outraged to read that public employees and others conspired to defraud the generous health benefits programs provided them by state government and taxpayers. Rightly so.
For 15 months starting in 2015 they ran a kickback scheme through a Louisiana pharmacy, submitting prescriptions for expensive and unneeded compounded medicines, then splitting up the payments by the health plans. Together they made $50 million in fraudulent insurance claims.
Thanks to the excellent work of U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito’s Newark office — and the FBI’s Atlantic City Resident Agency, among many law enforcers he credited — charges against more than 30 people and subsequent guilty pleas in many cases started in 2017.
In the two years that followed, many of those outraged area residents noticed there were no sentencings yet. In comments to The Press, they worried that might mean less than equal justice for government workers such as teachers, firefighters and such.
Judging by the first three sentencings in the case, their worry is unfounded. Each person received a significant prison term and an order to pay back not only their ill-gotten gains, but very substantial restitution as well.
The first, Kristie Masucci, of Stafford Township, a pharmaceutical representative in the scheme, was sentenced in August to two years in federal prison and ordered to forfeit $338,000 she made and make restitution of another $1.8 million.
At the start of last month, two now former school employees, both of Marmora, were sentenced. Pleastantville teacher Richard McAllister received 37 months in prison and orders to pay back $457,000 and restitution of $3.4 million. Ocean City maintenance worker James Wildman got 46 months in prison and orders to repay $650,000 in illicit profits and $4.9 million restitution.
One thing that worried readers was that sentencings were repeatedly postponed.
That’s still the case. A couple of weeks ago, sentencings were put off until next year for more than two dozen who have pleaded guilty. A defense lawyer said postponements in complex federal cases with multiple defendants aren’t unusual.
More than a year ago we said regarding the benefits fraud scheme, “Crimes against society are serious. They strike at the heart of people’s ability to organize themselves for their mutual good. The government response should reflect the great shared values at stake and the effect this sad case has on everyone.”
The investigation, prosecution and the sentencings so far embody that serious need for justice.