Two plead guilty in pharmacy fraud scheme with Harford ties

Two of three men implicated in an alleged pharmacy fraud scheme that had connections to Harford County pleaded guilty to federal charges this week, according to prosecutors, who earlier said the U.S. government was bilked out of at least $2.6 million in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements.

Vipinkumar Patel, 30, of Edgewood, and Jigar Patel, 27, of Columbia, each pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to making false statements relating to health care matters in connection with a scheme to defraud Medicaid, Medicare and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program by submitting false claims for prescription refills, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for Maryland. Vipinkumar Patel pleaded guilty Tuesday and Jigar Patel pleaded guilty Wednesday.

Reddy Vijay Annappareddy, 46, a Fallston resident, who prosecutors have said owned the pharmacy chain where the scheme was carried out, is due to be tried on health care fraud and aggravated identity theft charges in November, according to prosecutors.

The two guilty pleas were announced jointly by U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.

According to prosecutors, both Vipinkumar Patel and Jigar Patel were citizens of, and licensed pharmacists in India, working in the United States under an H1-B visa, a temporary visa issued to persons in certain specialty occupations. Vipinkumar and Jigar Patel, who are not related, were hired as pharmacy technicians in 2009 and 2010, respectively, by the owner of Pharmacare, LLC, who agreed to sponsor their work permits.       

According to their plea agreements, the Patels admitted that they billed insurance programs for prescription refills when the pharmacy customers had not requested the refill. 

In August 2013, a federal search warrant was executed at a then vacant home that was used to house Pharmacare employees.

Federal agents recovered undelivered medications worth approximately $87,749.48, as well as binders of alphabetically arranged signature logs which purported to confirm the delivery of medication to Pharmacare customers. The signature pages were undated and contained only the customer's name and signature, prosecutors said.

Many of the undelivered medications found at the home were billed and filled by Vipinkumar and Jigar Patel in their capacity as pharmacy technicians, prosecutors said.

According to the plea agreements, the Patels did not receive the profits from the fraud scheme directly, but were able to keep their jobs at Pharmacare and lawfully remain in the United States on their H1-B visas.

The Patels each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for making a false statement in a health care matter. Sentencing for Vipinkumar Patel is scheduled for Jan. 15, 2015 and for Jigar Patel on Dec. 16.

When the Patels and Annappareddy were indicted in July 2013, prosecutors said Annappareddy was the owner of Pharmacare LLC and Careamerica LLC, two pharmacy store chains doing business in Maryland and elsewhere.

The indictments also stated the Patels met when they both worked at Pharmacare and Careamerica stores in Bel Air South.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, if convicted, Annappareddy faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for health care fraud and a mandatory minimum of two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, for aggravated identity theft, plus a $250,000 fine.




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