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HIV Drug Scheme Leads to 4 Arrests




 

Four men have been accused of selling hundreds of millions of dollars of black market HIV drugs to unsuspecting patients at pharmacies in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Wednesday.

The men turned themselves in Wednesday when an indictment was unsealed in state Supreme Court in Suffolk County, Mr. Schneiderman's office said. More than $274 million of stolen, expired or mislabeled HIV drugs were sold to patients in an alleged plot that lasted from 2008 to 2012. About $155 million of it was billed to Medicaid, the public insurance program for the poor, Mr. Schneiderman said.

No patients were harmed, authorities said, but they were potentially endangered because some of the drugs were of unknown origin and potency. The drugs were sold out of three MOMS Pharmacy shops, a small chain with a website that says it is "committed to providing the best HIV/AIDS pharmacy care."

According to the attorney general's office, Stephen Manuel Costa, 27 years old, of Florida, created four shell companies to sell the drugs to MOMS Pharmacy. The attorney general's office said Mr. Costa paid a $5 million bribe to Glenn Schabel, MOMS' supervising pharmacist and compliance officer, to purchase the black market drugs from his companies.

Mr. Costa also paid Ira Gross, a pharmacist, $21 million to broker the deal, and gave another pharmacist, Harry Abolafia, more than $1 million to create false invoices, according to the attorney general's office.

The defendants were charged with grand larceny, criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions and money laundering, among other counts. They pleaded not guilty and were released on bail. None could be reached for comment.

Anthony D. Luna, president of MOMS Pharmacy, said in a statement: "MOMS Pharmacy was a victim of this crime and will continue to cooperate fully with the New York state authorities to see that those involved are brought to justice."





 


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Information in this article was accurate in April 4, 2012. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.