Federal authorities on Monday accused a pharmacist from Old Westbury of stealing $9 million in taxpayer dollars through two pharmacies she runs in Brooklyn.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan say Sunita Kumar, 54, got the money in the form of Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements for prescriptions the pharmacies never actually filled — and kicked back some of the cash to the patients who provided the scripts.
Kumar faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the two charges against her: health care fraud and paying illegal remuneration in the form of kickbacks.
“Medicare and Medicaid provide critical health care for some of our most vulnerable citizens,” Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a news release. “Together with our law enforcement partners, we will aggressively pursue those who allegedly use public programs as a vehicle for illegal personal profit.”
Kumar is accused of getting customers at two Brooklyn pharmacies — one she owned directly and another she operated — to give her prescriptions for drugs that she submitted to Medicare and Medicaid administrators for reimbursements, according to a criminal complaint against her.
Kumar billed the health care programs for about $9 million from January 2015 through December 2016, but never dispensed the drugs, instead paying the customers a portion of the money she received, the complaint says.
A review of Kumar’s pharmacy records shows she often billed Medicare and Medicaid for many more units of drugs than she purchased to keep at the pharmacy, the complaint says.
On one occasion in June 2016, Kumar handed $70 in cash in a brown paper bag to an undercover agent who was there to collect “refills” on one of the customers’ behalf, the complaint says.
The FBI, along with the federal Department of Health and Human Services and the New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General, investigated Kumar with the cooperation of a witness who sold one of the pharmacies to Kumar’s husband, according to the complaint.
That person was involved in a similar kickback scheme that Kumar and her husband continued, the complaint says.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office said she could not comment on whether the cooperating witness or any of the people who received kickbacks would be charged.
Jeffrey A. Granat, Kumar’s Garden City-based attorney, did not return a phone call seeking comment. But he told Newsday that “after all is said and done, she [Kumar] is confident that her position will be vindicated.”