CAMDEN — A Linwood pharmaceutical representative pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to her role in a wide-reaching scheme to defraud the state health benefits plan, authorities said.
Tara LaMonaca, 43, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said in a news release.
LaMonaca faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Her sentencing is scheduled for July 19. LaMonaca is represented by attorney Barry Gross in Philadelphia. Gross, reached by phone on Wednesday, said neither he nor LaMonaca had a comment on the case.
LaMonaca is the 19th person to plead guilty in the yearlong scheme that involves pharmaceutical representatives from across South Jersey as well as teachers, firefighters, police officers and state troopers.
As part of the plea agreement, LaMonaca must forfeit the $89,855 she received for her role in the scheme, and will pay restitution of an amount to be determined at sentencing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
According to the court documents, an unnamed pharmacy benefits administrator paid the out-of-state compounding pharmacy in this scheme more than $50 million for compounded medications, including $530,527 for prescriptions that LaMonaca and her cohorts submitted.
From January 2015 through April 2016, LaMonaca was among several who recruited individuals in New Jersey, particularly those who were part of the State Health Benefits Plan, to obtain expensive and medically unnecessary compounded medications from the unnamed compounding pharmacy, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The compound medications included pain, scar, antifungal and libido creams and vitamin combinations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The court documents say that LaMonaca would obtain insurance information from people and pass it along to another conspirator, who would complete the prescription and have a doctor sign it without examination.
She and others would then receive a payout from another conspirator who was paid a percentage of each prescription filled and paid out by the pharmacy benefits administrator.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys R. David Walk Jr. and Jacqueline M. Carle of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Camden.
This investigation into state health benefits fraud surfaced last summer in the area. Since August, 18 other people have entered guilty pleas in connection with this case.
Previous guilty pleas have included three teachers, several Atlantic County pharmaceutical representatives, a Margate doctor and firefighter, and a former Atlantic City firefighter.