A Babylon pharmacist has been sentenced to 8 to 24 years in prison for his role in selling more than $274 million of medically worthless HIV medication, the office of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said.
Ira Gross, 63, was sentenced in Riverhead Wednesday and ordered to repay what he pocketed in the scheme — $25.2 million, according to a news release.
Evidence at his trial in August revealed that from 2008 to 2012 Gross and others sold the diverted medications, mostly expensive HIV antiretroviral medications purchased off the street, to MOMS Pharmacy in Melville. MOMS Pharmacy then dispensed the diverted medications to thousands of its unsuspecting patients, many of whom were Medicaid recipients, throughout New York and other states, including Massachusetts, Florida, and California, officials said.
Ultimately, the New York Medicaid program paid $154 million for those tainted medications distributed to New York Medicaid patients.
A jury found Gross guilty on Aug. 8 after a four-week trial in Suffolk County Supreme Court before Judge Richard Ambro. He was convicted of first-degree grand larceny, a class B felony, and other related charges.
“The defendant not only cheated the state Medicaid program, but also preyed on some of New York’s most vulnerable so that he could line his own pockets with millions,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
After a long-term investigation, which included the use of court-ordered eavesdropping, in February 2012, the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit stopped in progress a delivery of $1.2 million in diverted medication and executed a search warrant at MOMS Pharmacy’s headquarters in Melville, the release said.
In April 2012, the fraud unit arrested Gross, three others and 10 companies, including Gross’s company Chaparral Services Ltd., after the defendants were indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury.
The attorney general also froze millions of dollars from the defendants in a parallel asset forfeiture action.
Dispensing diverted medications endangers the lives of patients by exposing them to drugs of unknown origin and potency and, in some cases, drugs which were mislabeled or potentially expired, officials said.
In these types of black-market schemes, medications are illegally obtained from a variety of sources, such as drugs bought from patients who sell their meds on the street. The bottles containing diverted medication are then cleaned, often with toxic cleansers, or the diverted medications themselves are rebottled and relabeled using fake labels and serial numbers and stored in unsanitary or uncontrolled conditions before they are illegally sold back into the regulated prescription medication distribution system.
As a result, patients who ingest black market medications may be exposed to potentially adverse drug interactions or serious health consequences, the release said.
Gross also was found guilty of three counts of money laundering, a class B felony, one count of criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions, a class C felony, and other related charges. Chaparral Services Ltd., the shell corporation Gross used to conceal and distribute his criminal proceeds, also was found guilty of three counts of money laundering and other related charges.
Gross, who was licensed to practice pharmacy in 1979, organized the scheme and coordinated the sale of the diverted street medication to MOMS Pharmacy, prosecutors said.
Gross paid Glenn Schabel, the supervising pharmacist and compliance officer for MOMS Pharmacy, more than $5 million to buy medication that he knew or should have known were diverted, according to the release.
Schabel, 55, of Melville, was also arrested and pleaded guilty in September to criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions and commercial bribe receiving.
Schabel was sentenced to 2 to 6 years in state prison and has paid nearly $5.5 million in restitution, the release said. He also was required to surrender his license to practice pharmacy.
Gross, his spouse, Lois Gross of Babylon, and their adult children, Dakota Gross and Chelsea Gross, remain as civil defendants in the attorney general’s forfeiture action, seeking return of the proceeds and substituted proceeds of the criminal scheme that are held in their names. That action continues, the release said.