A Wallington doctor admitted that he participated in a scheme with a pair of Fair Lawn pharmacy owners to con federal workers comp programs out of millions of dollars in exchange for a rent-free office.
Now-former postal workers came from as far as Florida to visit Dr. Mark Filippone, 71, who prescribed expensive but medically unnecessary pain creams and submitted bogus reports for phantom injuries the patients purportedly suffered on the job, federal authorities said.
Filippone, a licensed physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, steered the prescriptions to Jiffy Scripts pharmacy on Promenade Boulevard in Fair Lawn.
According to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito, pharmacy co-owners Joseph Vangelas, 34, of Fort Lee and Marlene Vangelas, 59, of River Vale bought Filippone’s office for above fair market value.
They then “permitted Filippone to continue to use the premises, for which he routinely failed to pay rent,” Carpenito said.
The Vangelases and a fourth defendant -- Zachary Ohebshalom, 34, of Edgewater – “conspired to leverage the property to force Filippone to continue to send prescriptions to their pharmacy,” the U.S. attorney said.
Filippone “continued to feed prescriptions to the pharmacy, so long as Miller and Vangelas permitted him to remain rent-free in the property,” he said.
Meanwhile, the trio directed their pharmacists to “mine reimbursement rates within the federal workers’ compensation program for the ingredients of the pain creams in order to determine the most lucrative formulations,” Carpenito said.
They “then printed prescription labels for Filippone to use with his patients,” he said.
Filippone used the pre-printed labels and sent the prescriptions back to the pharmacy owners and Ohebshalom, the U.S. attorney said.
The scheme cost federal workers compensation programs an estimated $10 million, he said.
Criminal charges against Joseph and Marlene Vangelas have remained pending the outcome of the case against Filippone, who could be one of the witnesses called by federal prosecutor to testify against them.
Ohebshalom also previously pleaded guilty for his role in the conspiracy, as did Estela Blaustein, 55 of Mahwah, who Carpenito said was involved in related conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton scheduled a March 3 sentencing for Filippone’s guilty plea to violating the federal anti-kickback statute during a video-conferenced hearing Thursday in federal court in Newark.
Carpenito credited the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the IRS with the investigation leading to the charges and pleas, secured by .
Handling the case for the government Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joshua L. Haber and Nicole F. Mastropieri of Carpenito’s Health Care & Government Fraud Unit.
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