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News

Feds: Ex-Con At NJ Pharmacy Bribed Doc For Prescription Referrals

Srinivasa Raju
Srinivasa Raju Photo Credit: NJ ATTORNEY GENERAL

A convicted former Morris County pharmacy employee who lives in Passaic County got prescription referrals by having co-workers deliver bribes in cash, checks and gift cards to a Jersey City doctor, authorities said in bringing a new case against him.

Federal agents arrested Srinivasa Raju, 49, of Haskell following an investigation that involved a secret recording -- the same as in a previous case.

Raju, formerly of Clifton, had finished serving three years probation following a 2016 conviction for distributing oxycodone without prescriptions.

Raju was caught running what state prosecutors said was a racket with Vincent Esposito, a former doctor turned local councilman who took a guilty plea and cooperated against him.

Raju lost his pharmacist’s license in that case and was later hired at the Morris County pharmacy to coordinate prescription deliveries and solicit business, among other duties.

While in that job, Raju “worked with other pharmacy personnel to pay kickbacks and bribes to a doctor’s employee in exchange for receiving numerous prescriptions from that doctor’s Jersey City office,” Acting U.S. Attorney Rachel A. Honig said Wednesday.

“Raju first paid the kickbacks and bribes using gift cards but soon switched to cash and checks,” Honig said. “He typically handed the kickbacks and bribes to coworkers inside the pharmacy and directed them to deliver the payments to the doctor’s employee.”

To try and cover his tracks, Raju had $8,000 or so worth of checks made out to the employee’s relative, “under the guise of paying for IT services,” the U.S. attorney said. “In truth, Raju never met or communicated with the relative, and no actual services were performed.”

Raju was secretly recorded at the pharmacy directing an employee to deliver a kickback and bribe of “200 bucks for Thanksgiving,” a complaint on file in U.S. District Court in Newark says.

“What do you think, I should give $300? What do you think?” Raju allegedly continued.

He then counted out more cash, which he put in a sealed envelope to have hand delivered, the complaint says.

In another instance, he tucked $250 in cash into a Christmas card that he also had delivered to the same physician’s office, it says.

Charged and still awaiting trial in a parallel case is another former pharmacy employee, Magdalena Jimenez, 56, of Newark.

Raju, meanwhile, is charged with conspiring to violate the federal anti-kickback statute, said Honig, who credited special agents of the FBI and her office with the investigation leading to the charges.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer, sitting in Newark, allowed his release allowed his release on a $250,000 unsecured bond pending trial during a video-conferenced first appearance on Wednesday following Raju's arrest.

Representing the government is Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua L. Haber of Honig’s Health Care Fraud Unit.

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