West New York pharmacy owner pleads guilty to healthcare fraud after getting caught on wire

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A Bergen County man who owned a West New York pharmacy pleaded guilty to bribery and healthcare fraud after getting caught on an FBI wiretap, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

The now defunct Empire Pharmacy was located on 6509 Bergenline Ave. Photo via Yelp.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Eduard “Eddy” Shtindler, 36, of Paramus, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp in Trenton federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay illegal kickbacks to a doctor.

From 2012 through at least 2017, Shtindler owned and operated the now-defunct Empire Pharmacy in West New York. Starting in 2015, Empire began filling prescriptions for expensive specialty medication that required “prior authorization” before being approved for reimbursement payment by Medical, Medicaid, and some private insurance providers.

To entice doctors to use Empire to fill such medications, Shtindler planned to have Empire receive prior authorization approval more successfully than any other pharmacies.

He directed Empire employees, including two pharmacists, to repeatedly falsify prior authorization forms for medications for different conditions, including psoriasis and Hepatitis C, officials said.

Shtindler was captured on recorded conversations admitting to his and Empire’s practice of falsifying prior authorization forms in order to receive approval for medication that would not have otherwise been approved.

From 2012 through early 2017, Shtindler participated in a conspiracy to pay bribes to a psychiatrist in Hudson County to induce the doctor to send prescriptions to Empire.

Shtindler sent Empire employees to deliver some of the bribe payments to the doctor. On occasion, Shtindler secreted cash bribes, in $100 denominations, in pill bottles that were delivered to the doctor, authorities said.

In exchange for these bribes, the doctor steered patients to use Empire pharmacy, even though the patients used other pharmacies closer to their homes for all of their other prescriptions.

In one recorded conversation between Shtindler and a concerned former Empire employee who had delivered a bribe to the doctor on Shtindler’s behalf, Shtindler was captured stating, “You think [the doctor]’s going to go to the FBI and rat himself out?”

In another conversation with the same former employee regarding the same topic of bribe payment Shtindler had the employee deliver to the doctor, Shtindler was captured saying, “First off, I didn’t make you do it. I didn’t put a gun to your head. We all made money together.” Shtindler concluded, “It is business.”

As part of his plea agreement, Shtindler agreed to loss amounts between $1.5 million and $3.5 million for each of the charged conspiracies to which he pleaded guilty.

The count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and the count of conspiring to pay illegal kickbacks is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison.

Both offenses are punishable by a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for March 24th, 2020.

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