CAMDEN — A Ventnor firefighter joined a long list of local residents who have pleaded guilty to a massive fraud scheme that cost the state more than $25 million in health benefits payouts to an out-of-state pharmaceutical company.
Corey Sutor, 37, of Egg Harbor Township, became the 23rd person to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit health fraud before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler Wednesday in Camden.
Sutor admitted receiving about $150,000 for his role in the scheme and for causing more than $2 million in fraudulent claims for expensive compounded medications, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Ventnor Fire Chief Michael Cahill deferred all comments to Mayor Beth Holtzman on Wednesday following the news of Sutor’s plea. Holtzman said that as of this morning, Sutor is suspended without pay and the city is moving for his termination.
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State and Press of Atlantic City records show Sutor joined the Ventnor Fire Department in 2008 and earns a salary of $99,760 per year.
Sutor is the third firefighter and one of several public employees, including teachers, to admit having a role in the scheme. The fraud first came to light in July 2017 after reports of federal subpoenas in Margate, Ventnor and Atlantic City requesting information about employee health benefits. The first plea agreement came the following month from Matthew Tedesco, a pharmaceutical representative from Linwood.
Other local firefighters involved are Michael Pepper of the Atlantic City Fire Department and Michael Sher of the Margate Fire Department.
Holtzman said she was unaware that any of Ventnor’s employees were implicated in the fraud until a day ago.
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“I didn’t know,” she said. “You hear so many things, and they said the Downbeach communities, and we’re one of them. It saddens me.”
Holtzman said she knew Sutor and he is a “good guy,” but actions have consequences. She said one firefighter’s actions aren’t a reflection of the department or the city.
“They’re a great group of guys. They do a great job protecting the residents of Ventnor,” she said.
According to the documents in the case, Sutor was one of the owners of an unnamed company formed to market prescription compounded medications. From May 2015 through February 2016, Sutor and others associated with the company persuaded individuals in New Jersey to obtain expensive and medically unnecessary compounded medications.
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The scheme targeted individuals on state health benefits plans, such as teachers, firefighters, police officers and state troopers. Recruiters like Sutor offered the public employees hundreds of dollars per month to agree to obtain prescription compounded medications without any examination by a medical professional.
A still yet-to-be-named compounding pharmacy would receive a generous payout from the health benefits plan for filling prescriptions for the compounded medications. The pharmacy would then pay a portion of the proceeds to the conspirators who served as recruiters, who would then pass that money down to the lower-level recruiters, doctors and public employees.
Sutor faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, must forfeit criminal proceeds and pay restitution of at least $2,092,791.
Sentencing is scheduled for March 12.