Federal prosecutors have charged 10 people with orchestrating a $20 million scheme to enrich themselves by buying and selling HIV drugs on the black market, which in some cases were purchased from low-income patients who risked their lives selling them.
According to a statement released Friday by Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
According to a 24-page indictment filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, the scheme also included bribing patients to use specific local pharmacies that were involved in the conspiracy and defrauding Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies out of millions of dollars since 2017 .
Williams said the defendants in this case preyed on vulnerable members of society. Several of the defendants face decades in prison on various charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, health care fraud and money laundering.
Three years ago, federal prosecutors said Christy Corvalan, owner of a Bronx pharmacy, sent the man who sold it to her a photo of black market HIV drugs.
I was going to keep him, but I really can’t,’ she wrote to the man, Boris Aminov, in a WhatsApp message. She added: I already have enough bad ones to work with.
Prosecutors say Mr. Aminov had already sold her too many spoiled bottles of HIV drugs, which she altered to make them look more legal so she could resell them for a profit. This particular bottle, she told Mr. Aminov, was of particularly poor quality.
The way prescription drugs are manufactured, handled and sold is carefully regulated in the United States, and prosecutors say those who buy drugs from black market dealers can’t be sure the drugs meet the same standards.
Mr. Aminov, Ms. Corvalan and three people who worked at Ms. Corvalans’ pharmacies were charged in connection with the scheme in March, but on Friday prosecutors added new charges and charged six additional people.
Mr. Aminov, who lives in Brooklyn, and another man purchased HIV drugs on the black market and sold them to pharmacies owned by Ms. Corvalan and at least two pharmacies owned by Queens residents at prices well below market value, according to the indictment. From there, the potentially dangerous drug was resold to pharmacies across the country or dispensed to patients, prosecutors say.
Prosecutors said that although the drugs were purchased cheaply and illegally, Ms. Corvalans’ pharmacies consistently billed insurers for the full value of the drugs and made about $3,000 on each monthly prescription filled.
According to the indictment, Ms. Corvalan and some of her employees also bribed patients to use her pharmacies to submit false bills for these prescriptions and encouraged mostly low-income patients to forego prescribed HIV treatment by offering them a monthly purchase drugs for several hundred dollars.
According to prosecutors, one of the patients questioned defendant Antonio Payano about the price Mr. Payano was offering for a bottle of Biktarvy’s HIV drug.
In the text message, the patient wrote why I risk my life for so little money.
According to the indictment, drugs purchased from HIV-positive people were dispensed to other patients while Ms. Corvalan and others pocketed the money that Medicaid and Medicare paid to fill the prescriptions.
Lawyers representing Mr. Aminov, Ms. Corvalan and Mr. Payano did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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